Criminal Law Decisions: Decided

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For anyone watching 'Making a Murder,' from seasoned attorneys to your average layperson, it was fairly obvious what happened to Brendan Dassey, nephew of the documentary's subject Steven Avery. An impressionable and possibly mentally impaired teen was hauled into a police station and bolstered, berated, and badgered in turns until he confessed to a gruesome murder. (This followed similar treatment from his own attorney.) And it was also apparent to viewers, as it must have been to the officers interviewing him, that Dassey's confession failed to match the facts of the case.

Today, a federal judge agreed, saying that Dassey's constitutional rights had been violated by both his attorney and police investigators, overturned his conviction, and ordered him to be released, ten years after his conviction.

Delaware's highest court ruled that the state's death penalty statute is unconstitutional, which could signal the end of capital punishment in the state. The decision, based on the Supreme Court's invalidation of Florida's death penalty law, held that judges were given too great a role in imposing death sentences.

While Delaware could appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court or re-write the statute to comply with constitutional requirements, the state legislature's push to abolish capital punishment could be an indicator that the ruling will stand. Here's what the court said.

In a reminder that state statutes can be woefully behind the times when it comes to technology and crime, a Georgia appeals court overturned a man's conviction for surreptitiously taking cell phone video underneath a woman's skirt without her consent. The practice, known as "upskirting," is disgusting, odious, and morally reprehensible, but, as the court in this case pointed out, not technically illegal under some current state statutes.

So how was the man convicted in the first place? And how did he ultimately end up going free? Here's a look at Georgia's privacy law and what the court said.

Supreme Court Shifts Perspective on Illegal Police Stops

It used to be that if a police stop was unreasonable, evidence found after that illegal stop was excluded from a case when successfully challenged in court. This week, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-3 that evidence from an unreasonable stop can be retroactively validated by a pre-existing warrant.

The ruling seems confusing and of little consequence to many. However, it's actually a big deal because millions of people have outstanding warrants for small infractions. Also, the decision shifts the angle on time and evidence in criminal cases. In the words of one dissenter, "Do not be soothed by the technical language." Let's consider the opinions -- majority and dissent -- and why this case is significant.

Cell Phone Location Data Isn't Private, Federal Appeals Court Rules

Your phone says a lot about you, or it can if authorities review your location data over an extended period of time. That is why privacy advocates believe it constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution and that a warrant should be required for phone location information.

But this week a federal appellate court in Virginia ruled 12-3 that no warrant is needed because consumers have no reasonable expectation of privacy in information they willingly surrender to cell phone companies, reports The Intercept. The issue may still make its way to the Supreme Court eventually and some experts expect the strong dissent in this case and others like it indicate there is hope yet for privacy.

Over 30 years after his first murder, and six years after his arrest, Lonnie David Franklin, Jr., dubbed the Grim Sleeper serial killer was found guilty of 10 counts of murder in the slayings of nine women and one 15-year-old girl. Franklin targeted vulnerable young black women in the Los Angeles area for decades spanning the crack cocaine epidemic and killed his last known victim in 2007.

It was a 13-year gap in the middle of that span that earned Franklin the Grim Sleeper moniker, distinguishing him from other serial killers operating in the same area at the same time.

Last summer, anti-abortion advocates thought they had a smoking gun when they secretly taped Planned Parenthood executives allegedly discussing the donation and sale of fetal tissue. Threats to defund Planned Parenthood were made, and a grand jury was convened to investigate whether the health services provider committed any crimes.

Well, the grand jury investigation is complete, only it didn't hand down the indictments those who made the videos probably expected. Planned Parenthood was cleared of any wrongdoing, and instead the Harris County grand jury indicted two of the people behind creating the videos.

Back in 2012, the Supreme Court held that mandatory life sentences for juveniles without the possibility for parole are unconstitutional. The question at the time, and one that has been posed to state courts ever since, was whether that ruling applied to inmates already serving life sentences for juvenile convictions.

And now we know the answer. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court decided that its ruling in Miller v. Alabama is retroactive, and those that were previously sentenced to mandatory life terms as juveniles must be eligible for parole. Let's take a look at the Court's ruling.

In its first major decision of 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Florida's capital punishment sentencing scheme is unconstitutional. The Court held that juries, and not judges, should be the final arbiters of any facts related to handing down a death penalty sentence.

So what does this mean for capital punishment in Florida, and the death penalty nationwide?

For the first time ever, a state has agreed to pay for a transgender inmate's sex reassignment operation. As part of a legal settlement, California will pay for the surgery for Shiloh Quine, a transgender woman who is serving a life sentence.

The settlement with Quine follows a ruling from a federal judge that required the state to pay for the surgery for another inmate, Michelle Norsworthy. Instead, California Gov. Jerry Brown announced Norsworthy would be paroled.