SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS RETROACTIVE APPLICATION OF MICHIGAN DECISION

Burt Lancaster was convicted of first degree murder in Michigan for killing his girl friend. He plead diminished capacity but was convicted any way. At the time of the offense there were a number of Michigan appellate decisions upholding a defense of diminished-capacity but the Michigan Supreme Court had not acted on the matter. A diminished-capacity defense allows “a defendant . . . although he was legally sane, [to present] evidence of some mental abnormality to negate the specific intent […] Read more »

WOULD TODAY’S SUPREME COURT APPROVE GIDEON V. WAINWRIGHT

Fifty years ago today the Supreme Court in Gideon v. Wainwright ruled that the Constitution mandated that the courts appoint counsel in felony cases for indigent defendants. In doing so, it reversed a earlier case, Betts v. Brady in which the Supreme Court ruled that there was no universal right for appointed counsel unless their was proof that the particular conviction was obtained in violation of due process. Clarence Earl Gideon, like Betts, requested an attorney in the trial court […] Read more »

SUPREME COURT FINDS NO MANDATORY RIGHT TO STAY IN HABEAS PROCEEDINGS WHERE PETITIONER IS INCOMPETENT

The Supreme Court yesterday, in Ryan v. Gonzales reversed decisions by the Sixth and Ninth Circuits granting mandatory stays on petitions for writs of habeas corpus on the basis that the petitioner is mentally incompetent and unable to assist counsel. The Court ruled that there was no constitutional or statutory basis for such a stay. In the Ninth Circuit case, Gonzales argued that the right to counsel in habeas matters guaranteed by 18 U. S. C. §3599(a)(2) was violated if […] Read more »

COURT UPHOLDS LIFE SENTENCE FOR CHILD PORN CONVICTION

Paul Pavulak was convicted of possessing and attempting to produce child pornography, attempting to entice a minor, and committing crimes related to his status as a sex offender. The Delaware State Police received information that Pavulak was working for his son’s company and that he was viewing child pornography at the office. They got a search warrant and arrested him after pornography was found on two computers and after searching his email. He was convicted and due to his two […] Read more »

COURT FINDS 26 MONTH PRETRIAL DETENTION NOT A VIOLATION OF DUE PROCESS

Antonio Briggs was arraigned on August 17, 2010 for his alleged involvement in a major multi-defendant, multi-count narcotics prosecution. On September 1, 2010 he was ordered detained without bail pending trial in the matter. Pretrial detention cannot be used for punitive purposes. Pretrial detention is only permissible to insure the defendant’s presence at trial or when a defendant is a danger to society. However there is a presumption in Federal narcotics cases where the maximum sentence is over ten years […] Read more »

FLORIDA APPEALS COURT REMOVES JUDGE FROM ZIMMERMAN CASE

In a 2-1 decision the Florida District Court of Appeals for the Fifth District granted George Zimmerman’s request to have Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. removed from his case. Zimmerman, the captain of the neighborhood watch in Stanford, Florida is charged with the murder of Trayvon Martin, an African American teenager walking back to his father’s apartment after buying a couple of items at a convenience store. In granting Zimmerman’s writ of prohibition challenging Lester’s refusal to recuse himself the […] Read more »

FLORIDA DRUG LAW UPHELD DESPITE LACK OF MENS REA REQUIREMENT

In the United States the law requires that the prosecutor prove the guilt of each defendant at trial by a beyond a reasonable doubt standard. This means that the prosecutor must prove each element of each charge. The defendant need not prove his innocense but the prosecutor must prove guilt. For each criminal statute the statute itself or the courts have delineated certain elements that must be proved by the state. For the most part states are free to designate […] Read more »

SUPREME COURT REFUSES TO LIMIT THE USE OF IDENTIFICATION EVIDENCE

The Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a New Hampshire man despite an identification with limited reliability. Around 3 a.m. on August 15, 2008, Joffre Ullon called the Nashua, New Hampshire police to report that a man was checking out cars in the parking lot of his apartment house. One officer contacted Barion Perry who was in the parking lot with audio parts from a car stereo system. Another officer went into the apartment house and spoke with Ullon’s wife. […] Read more »

NEW ORLEANS MURDER CONVICTION OVERTURNED FOR VIOLATION OF CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO DISCOVERY

The Supreme Court, yesterday, reversed the murder conviction of Juan Smith for the failure of the government to comply with Brady v. Maryland. In Brady the Supreme Court held that prosecutors have a duty to provide the defense with all evidence that is both exculpatory and material. Several men broke into the New Orleans residence of Rebe Espadron in a home invasion robbery and killed five people. Smith was convicted on the basis of only one witness. Larry Boatner, one […] Read more »

COURT REVERSES RECEIPT OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY CHARGE DUE TO ERRONEOUS JURY INSTRUCTION

Randy Lee Johnson, Jr. was tried in Federal Court on charges of receiving and possessing child pornography. On appeal he claimed that convicting him on both counts violated the Double Jeopardy Clause. Furthermore, Johnson and the government agreed that in instructing the jury the judge erred as to the jurisdictional element of the receipt charge.. The Government agreed that Johnson could not be convicted of both receipt and possession of child pornography without violating the Double Jeopardy Clause. But if […] Read more »