Lyle Denniston over at SCOTUS Blog has an interesting article on Monday’s oral arguments in Clapper v Amnesty International, Supreme Court No. 11-1025. Clapper is a challenge to the Government’s very broad wiretapping operations that they are carrying out in the name of terrorism prevention. The Government has been successfully defending these suits by arguing that the people bringing suit can’t prove they were the victims of illegal eavesdropping and therefore the suits shouldn’t go forward. In one case where the Government accidentally admitted the eavesdropping, they were able to claw evidence back stating the attorney could not use the evidence accidentally released. Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, Inc. v. U.S. Dept. of the Treasury, 660 F.3d 1019 (9th Cir. 2011). Here is another interesting article covering this case and the history of the line of litigation generally.
Also relevant to the criminal practitioner is the Court’s cert. grant in Travino v Thaler dealing with the limits of the Court’s ruling last term in Martinez v Ryan. The divided Fifth Circuit decision shows a pretty disturbing Brady suppression of evidence. The State hid a statement by completely exculpating the Defendant. I will post more on this case shortly.
The policy was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of a sex offender who until the mayor's action frequently used the city's libraries to check out materials and attended lectures and meetings there.
The Court upheld the lower court’s injunction noting that: “The First Amendment includes a fundamental right to receive information," a three-judge panel of the Court\ wrote. "By prohibiting registered sex offenders from accessing ... public libraries, the city's ban precludes these individuals from exercising this right in a particular government forum," the court said.
But the panel left open the possibility of allowing restrictions less stringent than an outright ban. "We therefore are especially mindful that registered sex offenders, whom studies have confirmed have a considerable rate of recidivism, may threaten to shatter the peace and safety of this environment."
However, the judges said city officials failed to look at other less restrictive approaches, including designating certain hours for sex offenders, requiring them to check in with library staff or restricting areas of the library that they could use.
Albuquerque Assistant City Attorney Gregory Wheeler said the city had adopted a less restrictive policy following the district court's ruling, so Friday's decision will have little immediate impact. Nevertheless, the city is analyzing the ruling to decide whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, he said, adding, "We are always looking for ways to provide more protection." Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico, hailed the ruling.
The Supreme Court has declined to extend constitutional safeguards against the use of some eyewitness testimony at criminal trials, ruling against a New Hampshire man who was convicted of theft. Perry v. New Hampshire, 10-8974.
The court voted 8-1 Wednesday to turn away Barion Perry's claim that courts should be able to exclude eyewitness testimony when identifications are made under suggestive circumstances, even when there is no evidence of manipulation by the police. Judges can already can bar testimony when the police do something to influence a witness to identify a suspect.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in her opinion for the court that in cases with no police misconduct, juries can weigh the reliability of eyewitness testimony. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissenting opinion. The decision may not be as awful as many members of the criminal bar first thought. While the Court refuses to move the due process clause to follow the science of bad eye witness identification, it does so only based on the notion of the lack of state action in that case. In cases involving state actors there is a little more hope. On p. 9, n. 5, the majority restates the 20 year old Neil/Manson factors. The good news is that it lists the five factors is non-exclusive. The Court makes it clear that the five traditional factors are among the 'factors to be considered.’” This seems to suggests that could could ask a Court to consider many more factors, such as the laundry list stated by other courts, particularly the recent decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court. The bad news is that the Court fails to address the scientific criticisms of the Manson factors, which the State is likely to read as implicitly reaffirming them. This was a lost opportunity to fix binding federal precedent which is unarguably scientifically flawed -- the states can follow Henderson and ditch the test as a matter of state constitutional law. Still, the Court ignored forty-five years of scientific research on the subject and that is troubling.
Troy Davis Case is Back Before SCOTUS. Is Convicting the Innocent a Self-Standing Constitutional Violation?
On Monday , the justices said they will hear the Michigan Attorney General’s challenge to a federal court of appeals in favor of Randall Fields. Mr. Fields acknowledged to sheriff’s deputies that he had sexual contact with a minor. The admission took place during an interview in the same building where Fields was jailed on unrelated charges. The deputies never advised Fields he could be silent or have a lawyer, hallmarks of the Miranda warning for criminal suspects. They did tell him he could leave the interrogation room when he wanted.
Even under Wood’s reading of §2254(d)(2), the state court’s conclusion that his counsel made a strategic decision not to pursue or present evidence of his mental deficiencies was not an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state-court proceedings. This Court need not reach the question whether §2254(e)(1) applies in every case presenting a challenge under §2254(d)(2), see Rice v. Collins, 546 U. S. 333, 339, because its view of the state court’s factual determination here does not depend on an interpretative difference regarding the relationship between those provisions. While “[t]he term ‘unreasonable’ is . . . difficult to define,” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U. S. 362, 410, it suffices to say that a state-court factual determination is not unreasonable merely because the federal habeas court would have reached a different conclusion in the first instance. See Rice, supra, at 341–342. Here, the state-court record shows that all of Wood’s counsel read the Kirkland report. Trotter testified that Dozier told him that nothing in the report merited further investigation, a recollection supported by the attorneys’ contemporaneous letters; and Trotter told the sentencing judge that counsel did not intend to introduce the report to the jury. This evidence can fairly be read to support the Rule 32 court’s factual determination that counsel’s failure to pursue or present evidence of Wood’s mental deficiencies was not mere oversight or neglect but the result of a deliberate decision to focus on other defenses. Most of the contrary evidence Wood highlights—e.g., that Dozier and Ralph put the inexperienced Trotter in charge of the penalty phase proceedings—speaks not to whether counsel made a strategic decision, but to whether counsel’s judgment was reasonable, a question not before this Court. Any evidence plausibly inconsistent with the strategic decision finding does not suffice to show that the finding was unreasonable. Pp. 8–12. Because Wood’s argument that the state court unreasonably applied Strickland in rejecting his ineffective-assistance claim on the merits is not “fairly included” in the questions presented under this Court’s Rule 14.1(a), it will not be addressed here. Pp. 12–13.
The opinion was authored by Justice Sotomayer. Justice Stevens and Kennedy dissented. Read More...