Archive for the ‘Evidence’ Category

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WHAT HAPPENED: Appellant is an indigent defendant who was convicted of first degree murder.  Appellant sought medical expert to assist with his sentencing and was provided with an expert by the State.  Following some kind of calamity involving timing and delivering the report, Appellant was sentenced to death (by electrocution because this was in 1984).

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  In the 1970s, the Supreme Court (by way of Thurgood Marshall) held that indigent defendants were entitled to medical experts to assist with the insanity defense.  The Court held that the cost to the State was nominal compared to the benefit it would provide in ensuring that justice was served.  This case takes that holding one step further, and asks that not only does the State have to provide a medical expert, but also has to provide someone who is completely independent from the State as to reduce bias.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS – This is either (1) a dollars and cents issue, or (2) another way that the Court could create more ways that people on death row can overturn their sentences.  One on hand, hiring an independent expert would cost more, but once again you would have to wonder how much it would really be in light of the purpose behind providing the expert.  If you also believe that experts are mostly just mercenaries who say whatever they are paid to say, the benefit here is pretty high.  On the other hand, a ruling in favor of the Defendant is a pretty far stretch from the original Court’s holding, and finding that an independent expert has been required since 1984 would open the door for past death row inmates to contest their sentences, which would in turn bring more old death row cases before the Court, which would in turn make Clarence Thomas freak out.

ROOT FOR MCWILLIAMS IF: you want to see Clarence Thomas freak out.

ROOT FOR DUNN IF: you think poor Clarence Thomas has been through enough.

PREDICTION:  Dunn 6-2

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The logic in the opinion below appears to be that criminals who invade people’s computers exist, and therefore computer users should have no expectation of privacy. This makes sense: burglars exist, so I shouldn’t have any expectation of privacy in my home.

I don’t want to trivialize the good the FBI managed to do here: it’s tough to put child pornographers behind bars. The real problem here is that these issues need new laws, and we need a Congress that can pass laws. Luckily, elections are around the corner.

via FBI didn’t need warrant to use malware to find visitors to child-porn website, judge rules

WHAT HAPPENED:  In North Dakota, Minnesota and countless other States in the Union, the State may penalize a suspected drunk driver if that driver refuses to submit a blood or breath test.  The test is requested after reasonable suspicion is established and refusal often results in penalties similar to that of a DUI.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  Despite what you may observe from watching the TV show COPS, you do not have an obligation to cooperate with police investigations.  Consent is seen as a waiver of your rights and not a required action.  In this context, the State is penalizing you for exercising your 4th amendment right against search and seizure by giving you a penalty for refusal.  Taken broadly, that’s a problem.  This case asks whether penalties for refusing blood, breath or both, are constitutional.

WHAT IS THE RULING:  This case is not yet decided.

WHAT IS THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THIS DECISION:  If the Court deems these statutes unconstitutional, that will be a significant problem in proving DUI convictions in most cases.  While many people admit to driving drunk when pulled over, many others receive less penalties by refusing the tests and depriving the State the best evidence to secure a conviction.  In this author’s humble opinion, this case probably will have the most effect on the average citizen than any other decision this term.

ROOT FOR BIRCHFIELD, BEYLUND & BERNARD IF:  As far as I’m aware, this is the exclusive list (1) Public Defenders, (2)  Hyper-strict AND liberal Constitution fanatics, and (3) drunks.  It should be noted that one person could qualify for all three of these things

ROOT FOR NORTH DAKOTA AND MINNESOTA IF: You don’t think drunk drivers are a class of persons worth giving strong protections to.

WHAT HAPPENED?

The Appellant in this is contesting a significant award in a class action case regarding the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Appellants argue that Appellees class action includes plaintiffs who were not injured and also includes an inconsistent calculation of individual damages for each plaintiff.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT?

Class actions are strictly regulated to ensure that the parties before the Court have similar damages and arguments. Since class actions involve substantial monetary damages, it is the Court’s job to ensure that these questions are answered conclusively before the trial begins. The Appellant believes that the lower Court did this incorrectly; however, the Appellants arguments focus mostly on a witness who presented these findings at trial. Therefore, the Appellant’s arguments are more evidentiary-based rather than arguments based on how general class actions should be decided.

WHAT IS THE RULING

This case is not yet decided.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THIS DECISION?

In a vacuum, this case is your fairly standard appellate review decision, as the Court has to make sure that the lower Court did their job correctly in evaluating the evidence. On a broader level, this case and the Spokeo v. Robbins case, could lend insight on how the Supreme Court considers the growing number of class actions in the United States.

YOU SHOULD ROOT FOR TYSON FOODS IF YOU:

Hate statistics and class actions, but love chicken nuggets and labor discrimination.

YOU SHOULD ROOT FOR THE BOUAPHEKEO IF YOU:

Hate specifics and appellate actions, but love expert witnesses and million dollar plaintiff verdicts.

 

WHAT HAPPENED?
Defendant (Owens) was charged and convicted of murder based on a suspicious eye-witness testimony and a ruling by the judge that was supported by flimsy evidence.  Defendant appealed through all applicable State Courts and was denied.  Defendant filed a motion for habeas corpus in federal courts and his motion was granted by the intermediate 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT?
While it is all fine and dandy that this particular defendant received a receptive audience in the 7th Circuit, there remains a problem in that there is no authority that actually grants the 7th Circuit the ability to grant this Motion.  It’s a classic case of common sense via court precedent.
WHAT IS THE RULING
This case is not yet decided.
WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THIS DECISION?
If you extend the view broad enough, this case has fairly significant ramifications because it speaks highly to whether or not Courts should be more exact when it comes to flimsy evidence putting defendants in jail for life sentences.  If the 7th Circuit ruling is affirmed, it shows that the Court recognizes the current trend toward being more exact with criminal trials and gives appellate courts more authority to enforce that policy.  If the 7th Circuit ruling is reversed, well then nevermind back to business as usual.
YOU SHOULD ROOT FOR DUNCAN (i.e. THE STATE) IF YOU
Think martyrs are overrated.
YOU SHOULD ROOT FOR OWENS (i.e. THE DEFENDANT) IF YOU:
Are a huge fan of middle management

Brett and Nazim open up the listener mailbag to answer questions posed by listeners and update previous cases that have since been decided.  The topics this week include Holt v. Hobbs, smart phone technology, why DUI checkpoints are acceptable under the 4th amendment, and the possible scope of the Confrontation Clause decision.  Due to the general breadth of this episode, we split it into two, so the remaining topics will be covered next week. Same Breyer time, same Breyer Channel. Libsyn link

Justice Breyer at Yale law school in 2010.

Justice Breyer at Yale law school in 2010. Source: Yale law schol news (linked).

This week’s episode covers Ohio v. Clark, which asks whether or not a teacher may testify on behalf of a three year old child who was the only witness to a child abuse case under the Confrontation Clause.  This presents a good example of how the law can complicate an objective view of a bad situation, or how a sensitive topic can otherwise deny a citizen’s Constitutional rights.  Either way, Brett and Nazim get real awkward debating the issue somewhere around the 35 minute mark, so get ready for that. Libsyn link

Confrontation

Images may not represent what actually happened. Source: Dreamstime.com

This week’s episode discusses the legal issues surrounding the police in Ferguson, MS and Staten Island, NY.  The goal here was to take a strictly legal and objective overview of the issues in each case, specifically what a grand jury does, why you can’t sue the government and what the Constitution says about police use of deadly force, without getting too deep into the political issues that made up most of the media coverage.  Let’s call this one better late than never. Libsyn link

Eric Garner Protesters in Chicago on December 4, 2014.

Eric Garner Protesters in Chicago on December 4, 2014. Source: Samantha Lotti, via Wikipedia.