Supreme Court Criminal Law News - U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Supreme Court - The FindLaw U.S. Supreme Court Opinion Summaries Blog

Recently in Criminal Law Category

SCOTUS Hears Arguments: Can Gov't Freeze Money to Pay Lawyers?

Today the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for the case of Luis v. United States, a case of first impression for SCOTUS that asks probing questions about the role of government forfeiture of personal assets.

The legal issue at the core of Luis is this: Can prosecutors freeze all of the defendant's assets even if they are unrelated to any criminal activity and even if freezing them would hinder the defendant's ability to hire counsel?

The Supreme Court sided with a Texas police officer this Monday, ruling that he had qualified immunity for shooting at, and killing, a fleeing suspect. In an unsigned, 8-1 per curiam opinion, the Court agreed that state trooper Chadrin Mullenix didn't violate any clearly established constitutional rights when opened fire on a vehicle fleeing from the police, killing the driver.

The sole dissenting voice was that of Justice Sotomayor, who argued that an untrained officer, firing into the dark at oncoming traffic, certainly violated unmistakable Fourth Amendment rights.

This November begins with a bang in the Supreme Court. While the rest of us are still nursing our Halloween candy hangovers, the High Court is hearing two of the year's most interesting cases, Foster and Spokeo.

Foster deals with race and jury selection, specifically whether a prosecutor's use of peremptory challenges to strike all black candidates from a jury is prohibited racial discrimination. (We'll get to Spokeo tomorrow.) So, how'd things go?

SCOTUS Revisits Racism in Jury Selection

Almost three decades have passed since the nation's highest court declared that peremptory strikes on the basis of race are a violation of equal protection. In little less than a week, SCOTUS will revisit the issue of racism in jury selection again.

The Supreme Court's review of Foster v. Humphreys is the latest case to highlight what some have called a double standard of justice against blacks in American courts even with the ruling in Batson v. Kentucky.

The death penalty's days are numbered, at least if you trust Justice Scalia's predictions. Speaking at the University of Minnesota Law School, the justice said it "wouldn't surprise" him if the High Court declared capital punishment unconstitutional in the near future.

His statement drew applause, CBS Minnesota reports, but Justice Scalia is no opponent of capital punishment. He has repeatedly condemned attempts to make executions more difficult through "labyrinthine restrictions" -- a sort of "abolition by a million cuts" approach. If the Court's attitudes are changing as quickly as Justice Scalia indicates, that incremental strategy might not be necessary.

Should Juries Recommend Capital Punishment? SCOTUS Will Decide

The US Supreme Court ushered in a new term yesterday morning with a bevy of polarizing social issues: the death penalty, affirmative action, and contraception.

The Court's docket this year is already furnished with two cases of particular significance regarding capital punishment. The Court will answer this question: is a jury the correct body for recommending capital punishment?

Here's something you don't see -- well, ever? A cadre of ex-government prosecutors, including 20 former Justice Department officials, has filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court accusing current federal prosecutors of violating the Constitution by withholding evidence regarding a key witness. The claims made in the brief aren't in themselves uncommon, but it's unprecedented to see them made by former federal prosecutors against their current-prosecutor colleagues in the Justice Department.

The brief, signed by former officials from the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations, was submitted to support the cert petition of George Georgiou, a Canadian businessman convicted of securities fraud in 2010, after prosecutors failed to disclose evidence regarding the credibility of a government witness.

It's not easy to make a career in crime these days. The banks are cracking down on scoff-law traders, Google Earth is tracking your illegal logging, and even old-fashioned, violent criminals are routinely given decade-long sabbaticals due to sentencing enhancements.

Under the Armed Career Criminal Act, certain violent offenders are subject to mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years if they have been thrice convicted of crimes involving "a serious potential risk of physical injury to another."

Your local No Tell Motel can truly live up to its name, thanks to a recent ruling by the Supreme Court. Last week, the High Court gave a wink and nod to secret lovers and hotel clerks throughout the land, ruling that laws allowing police to inspect hotel registries without a warrant are unconstitutional.

Of course, those registries weren't just tracking your evening visits to the love shack, they were often used to investigate all sorts of criminal behavior, from murder to meth making. The laws required hotels to record guest information and turn it over to the police on demand. Such laws are a facially unconstitutional violation of the Fourth Amendment, the Court ruled.

The Supreme Court released three opinions today, one day before the end of the term. Following last week's headline-grabbing opinions on marriage and healthcare, the Court continued making news, issuing rulings on the Clean Air Act, electoral redistricting and, chief among the opinions, the lethal injection.

In the lethal injection case, Glossip v. Gross, the Court upheld the constitutionality of Oklahoma's lethal injection program. Death row prisoners had challenged the state's lethal injection cocktail, saying it failed to numb the pain of the lethal injection drugs, leading to a horrific death that would feel like being burnt alive. In their dissent, Justices Breyer and Ginsburg came out against the death penalty itself, arguing that capital punishment as a whole is unconstitutional.