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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.

SCOTUS Reverses 'Facebook Threats' Conviction

Anthony Douglas Elonis made statements on Facebook threatening his ex-wife, a local school, the local sheriffs, and the FBI agents who came to question him about all these threats.

Maybe that's how it happened. Or maybe Elonis was merely practicing his "rap lyrics" and exercising his constitutional rights in the process. Whatever he was doing, the Supreme Court vacated Elonis' conviction for making criminal threats -- but didn't do much beyond that.

Glossip v. Gross Oral Arguments: How Painful Is 'Painful'?

They're just gluttons for punishment, aren't they? After two and a half hours of arguments yesterday on the topic of same-sex marriage, the justices today opted for some lighter fare: the death penalty.

Richard Glossip, along with two other Oklahoma inmates, contends that the three-drug cocktail that state uses for lethal injections violates the Eighth Amendment.

Drug Dog Search Prolonged Traffic Stop, Says SCOTUS

Using a drug-sniffing dog in a completed traffic stop, in the absence of any reasonable suspicion to do so, is unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday in a 6-3 opinion.

Officer Morgan Struble pulled Dennys Rodriguez over for veering onto the shoulder, then jerking back onto the road. Rodriguez had a valid driver's license and no criminal history. After writing Rodriguez a warning ticket, Struble asked for permission to walk his dog around Rodriguez's car. It wasn't actually a question, as Struble did so even after Rodriguez said no. After two passes around the car, the dog alerted to drugs, and indeed, a search of the car revealed methamphetamine.

Rajat Gupta's Cert. Petition on Insider Trading Conviction Denied

Buried among the dozens of denials of petitions for writs of certiorari was this one: docket number 14-534, Rajat K. Gupta v. United States. It appears to be the end of the road for Gupta, a former Goldman Sachs director convicted for insider trading in hedge funds.

Former U. Va. Student Is Petitioning Supreme Court

Former University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely V is taking his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. He was sentenced to 23 years in prison in 2012 for beating his ex-girlfriend, also a lacrosse player, to death.

As is fitting for his station in life (he grew up in a 1.5-acre estate and attended elite private schools), Huguely is represented by none other than former solicitor general Paul Clement from the firm of Bancroft, PLLC in Washington, D.C.