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U.S. Supreme Court Blog U.S. Supreme Court Blog

Quick Summaries and Commentary on Supreme Court Cases

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Last Entry: June 08, 2009 at 19:19:00

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Boyle v. United States: Not much structure needed for RICO

Posted on June 08, 2009
The Supreme Court held that an association-in-fact enterprise under RICO, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c), must have a "structure," but it need not be, as Boyle sought the jury to be instructed in his bank robberies case, "an ascertainable structure beyond that inherent in the pattern of racketeering activity in which it engages...


Bobby v. Bies: No Double Jeopardy bar on mental capacity in death cases

Posted on June 01, 2009
A State court?s determination that a defendant?s mental retardation was a mitigating factor in the penalty phase of a capital case does not trigger Double Jeopardy issue preclusion, and foreclose the question whether, in the wake of the subsequently-decided decision in Atkins v...


Montejo v. Lousiana: Michigan v. Jackson overruled leaving an interrogation free-for-all

Posted on May 26, 2009
An inculpatory statement given by a defendant to police after the court ordered the appointment of counsel may be introduced at trial as evidence against him. In so holding, the Court overruled Michigan v. Jackson, which presumed that a waiver of the right to counsel was invalid once counsel was appointed at arraignment, and did not require the defendant to invoke the right to counsel...


Abuelhawa v. United States: Drug Telephone Counts Punish Sales Not Purchases

Posted on May 26, 2009
Whether the use of a telephone to buy drugs for personal use "facilitates" the commission of a drug "felony," in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 843(b), on the theory that the crime facilitated by the buyer is not his purchase of drugs for personal use (a misdemeanor), but is the seller?s distribution of the drugs to him (a felony)...


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Flores-Figueroa v. United States: "Knowingly" applies to all elements of aggravated identity theft law

Posted on May 04, 2009
The federal aggravated identity theft statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1), prescribes a mandatory two-year term of imprisonment for any person who, "during and in relation to" certain other specified crimes, "knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person...


Kansas v. Ventris: Exclusionary rule unnecessary to protect against Sixth Amendment violation through jailhouse snitch

Posted on April 29, 2009
Ventris was charged with murder and other crimes. The state planted another defendant in his cell as a "human listening device," even though Ventris? right to counsel had attached. Predictably, Ventris made incriminating statements to his cellmate. The state later conceded that it violated Ventris? Sixth Amendment right to counsel when it surreptitiously planted the snitch in Ventris? jail cell...


Dean v. United States: Accidental discharge sufficient for 924(c) sentencing enhancement

Posted on April 29, 2009
Dean?s gun accidentally discharged during a bank robbery, but no one was harmed. Dean was convicted of conspiring to commit a bank robbery and discharging a firearm during an armed robbery. Because the firearm was "discharged" during the robbery, he was sentenced pursuant to 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) to a 10-year mandatory minimum prison term...


Cone v. Bell: No defaults in habeas despite state court holdings to contrary

Posted on April 28, 2009
After the State discredited Cone?s defense that he killed two people while suffering from acute psychosis caused by drug addiction, he was convicted and sentenced to death. The Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed on direct appeal and the state courts denied postconviction relief...


Arizona v. Gant: Restricting searches of recently occupied vehicles

Posted on April 21, 2009
Police officers went to a house suspected of being used for narcotics activity. One officer knocked on the door, and Rodney Gant answered the officer?s knock on the door. The officers asked to speak with the homeowner, but Gant told them that the owner was not at home and would not return until later that day...


Supreme Court Review-Preview-Overview

Posted on April 13, 2009
The current outline of Supreme Court criminal cases is available here. Other "cites" of interest are available here.


Corley v. United States - Presentment Delay Still Subject to McNabb-Mallory, as Limited by 3501

Posted on April 06, 2009
Title 18 U.S.C. § 3501 ? read together with Fed. R. Crim. P. Rule 5(a), McNabb v. United States, 318 U.S. 332 (1943), and Mallory v. United States, 354 U.S. 449 (1957) ? requires that a confession taken more than six hours after arrest and before presentment be suppressed if there was unreasonable or unnecessary delay in bringing the defendant before the magistrate judge...


Harbison v. Bell - Right to Federally-Appointed Clemency Counsel

Posted on April 01, 2009
(1) 18 U.S.C. § 3599 authorizes federally appointed counsel to represent their clients in state clemency proceedings and entitles them to compensation for that representation, and (2) A certificate of appealability pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1)(A) is not required to appeal an order denying a request for federally appointed counsel under § 3599 because § 2253(c)(1)(A) governs only final orders that dispose of a habeas corpus proceeding?s merits.


Rivera v. Illinois - Improperly Denied Peremptory Challenge Not Structural Error

Posted on March 31, 2009
Provided that all jurors seated in a criminal case are qualified and unbiased, the Due Process Clause does not require automatic reversal of a conviction because of the trial court?s good-faith error in denying the defendant?s peremptory challenge to a juror.


Puckett v. Uinted States - Breached Plea Agreement Subject to Harmless Error Review

Posted on March 25, 2009
In exchange for Puckett?s guilty plea, the government agreed to request (1) a three-level acceptance-of-responsibility reduction in his offense level; and (2) a sentence at the low end of the applicable guideline range. The district court accepted the plea, but before Puckett was sentenced he assisted in another crime...


Vermont v. Brillon: Speedy trial delays caused by PDs are not charged to the State

Posted on March 09, 2009
Absent a systemic breakdown in a state public defender system, delays caused by appointed counsel are not attributed to the state for purposes of Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972), speedy trial analysis.



Nelson v. United States: We really Meant it in Kimbrough

Posted on January 26, 2009
The sentencing court clearly applied a presumption of reasonableness to petitioner's Guidelines range, and the circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court, in a per curiam decision, reversed, re-emphasizing that its cases do not allow a sentencing court (as opposed to an appellate court) to presume that a sentence within the applicable Sentencing Guidelines range is reasonable...


Arizona v. Johnson: Search of Auto Passenger Just Like Terry

Posted on January 26, 2009
In the context of a vehicular stop for a minor traffic infraction, may an officer conduct a pat-down search of a passenger when the officer has an articulable basis to believe the passenger might be armed and presently dangerous, but has no reasonable grounds to believe that the passenger is committing, or has committed, a criminal offense? The Supreme Court held that: (1) the first condition of Terry v...


Waddington v. Sarausad: Ambiguous Jury Instruction Not Clearly Established Wrong

Posted on January 21, 2009
Sarausad drove with fellow gang members to a high school, in order to retaliate against a rival gang. With knowledge that his front-seat passenger was armed and going to shoot, Sarausad drove toward a group of students standing outside the school. The passenger opened fire, killing one student and wounding another...


Spears v. United States: Kimbrough Means What it Says

Posted on January 21, 2009
Spears was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute at least 50 grams of cocaine base and at least 500 grams of powder cocaine. At sentencing, the district court determined that the drug quantities attributable to Spears yielded an offense level of 38, that his criminal history justified placing him in the Guidelines? criminal history category IV, and that the resulting advisory Guidelines sentencing range was 324 to 405 months? imprisonment...


Oregon v. Ice: Apprendi Does Not Govern Consecutive Sentences

Posted on January 14, 2009
Ice was convicted by a jury of two counts of first-degree burglary and four counts of first-degree sexual abuse. The court sentenced him to a total of 340 months, with three of the sentences running consecutively, based on its finding that the two burglaries of which Ice was convicted constituted "separate incidents," and that Ice?s conduct during the burglaries (which formed the basis for four other convictions) demonstrated a "willingness to commit more than one offense" "caus[ing] or creat[ing] a risk of causing greater or qualitatively different loss, injury or harm to the victim...


Herring v. United States: No Exclusionary Rule for negligent Police Error

Posted on January 14, 2009
Officers in one jurisdiction checked with employees of a law enforcement agency in another jurisdiction and were told that there is an outstanding warrant for an individual. Acting in good faith on that information the officers arrest the person and find contraband...


Jimenez v. Quarterman - Out-of-Time Appeal Tolls Habeas Time

Posted on January 13, 2009
Where a state court grants a criminal defendant the right to file an out-of-time direct appeal during state collateral review, but before the defendant has first sought federal habeas relief, his judgment is not "final" for purposes of §2244(d)(1)(A) until the conclusion of the out-of-time direct appeal, or the expiration of the time for seeking certiorari review of that appeal.


Chambers v. United States - Failure to Report to Jail is Not an ACCA Violent Felony

Posted on January 13, 2009
In a 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court held that a failure to report to penal confinement does not qualify as a "violent felony" for purposes of triggering the mandatory 15-year sentence for felons unlawfully in possession of a firearm who have three prior convictions...


Greenlaw v. United States - Appellate Court Can't Increase Sentence Sua Sponte

Posted on June 24, 2008
Greenlaw filed a direct appeal of his sentence; the government did not appeal the district court?s failure to make two sentences under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) ? a 5-year sentence and a 25-year sentence ? consecutive to each other and to other counts. The appellate court nevertheless remanded for imposition of the enhanced sentence, finding that the effect of the error was not "speculative...


Rothgery v. Gillespie County, TX - Right to Counsel at First Appearance

Posted on June 23, 2008
Rothgery was arrested without a warrant and booked into jail on suspicion he was a felon in possession of a gun. Apparently unknown to the arresting officer, there was no underlying felony because that earlier charge had been dismissed after the defendant completed a diversionary program...


Indiana v. Edwards - Right to Self-Represent Limited

Posted on June 19, 2008
Ahmad Edwards was tried for attempted murder, battery with a deadly weapon, criminal recklessness and theft following a shooting incident outside a store where he had shop-lifted a pair of shoes. He sought to represent himself but the trial judge found him not competent to do so...


Irizarry: 32(h) does not require notice of contemplated variance

Posted on June 13, 2008
In Irizarry v. U.S., No. 06-7517 (June 12, 2008), the Supreme Court held that Fed. R.Crim. P. 32(h), which requires a sentencing court to give the parties advance notice that it is contemplating a departure from the Guidelines, does not require the court to give notice of a contemplated variance from a recommended Guideline range...


Cueller v. United States: Insufficency of Money Laundering Evidence

Posted on June 02, 2008
Cuellar was driving a Volkswagen Beetle south on State Highway 77 in Texas, approximately 100 miles from the Mexican border. A police officer stopped him due to his erratic driving. Upon confronting him, police observed odd and inconsistent behavior, including that Cueller crossed himself as police conducted their investigation...


United States v. Santos - Only Profits are Proceeds Under Money Laundering Statute

Posted on June 02, 2008
Santos ran an illegal lottery, from which he paid runners a commission, salary to collectors, and winnings to bettors. He was convicted under the principal federal money laundering statute, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(1)(A)(i) and 1956(h), which makes it a crime to engage in a financial transaction using the "proceeds" of certain specified unlawful activities with the intent to promote those activities or to conceal the proceeds...


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