ABA Criminal Justice Section E-News April 2008

Every month I look forward to receiving the ABA Criminal Justice Section E-News. True to form, the April 2008 issue just received is filled with information to those involved with criminal justice issues. Here are some exampled highlighted in the April 2008 issue:

Weekly Criminal Justice News Roundup.

Legislative Update

Upcoming Events

April 3-6 Criminal Justice Section 2008 Spring Meeting, Charleston, SC (Francis Marion Hotel)

Superior Direct and Cross Examination (CLE, April 4)

April 11
Protecting Attorney-Client Privilege in 2008, Philadelphia, PA

May 9-10 The Comparison of Jury Trials and the Mystery of Art Theft, Bilbao, Spain

May 14-16 Health Care Fraud, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

May 21-23 Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Orlando, FL

June 11-13
Civil False Claims Act and Qui Tam Enforcement, Washington, DC

June 18-20 CyberLaw: Expanding the Horizons, Washington, DC

Aug. 7-12 ABA Annual Meeting (and CJ Section Programs and Meetings), New York, NY

Oct. 19-21 ABA/ABA Money Laundering Enforcement Conference, Washington, DC

New Publications

New from the ABA Commission on Effective Criminal Sanctions

Second Chances in the Criminal Justice System: Alternatives to Incarceration and Recovery Strategies
“This compendium of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Effective Criminal Sanctions and the Justice Kennedy Commission focuses on the fairness and proportionality of punishment and on ways in which criminal offenders may avoid or escape the permanent legal disabilities and stigma of a criminal record.”

U.S. Supreme Court Cases


By a 6-3 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court held that President Bush overstepped his authority when he ordered a Texas court to reopen the case of Jose Ernesto Medellin, a Mexican citizen whom police prevented from consulting with Mexican diplomats, as provided by international treaty. Medellin was arrested a few days after the killings of Jennifer Ertman, 14, and Elizabeth Pena, 16, in June 1993. He was told he had a right to remain silent and have a lawyer present, but the police did not tell him that he could request assistance from the Mexican consulate. Medellin was convicted of murder in the course of a sexual assault, a capital offense in Texas. A judge sentenced him to death in October 1994.

Texas acknowledged that Medellin was not told he could ask for help from Mexican diplomats, but argued that he forfeited the right because he never raised the issue at trial or sentencing. In any case, the state said, the diplomats’ intercession would not have made any difference in the outcome of the case. State and federal courts rejected Medellin’s claim when he raised it on appeal.

Then, in 2003, Mexico sued the United States in the International Court of Justice in The Hague on behalf of Medellin and 50 other Mexicans on death row in the U.S. who also had been denied access to their country’s diplomats following their arrests. An international court ruled in 2004 that the convictions of Medellin and 50 other Mexicans on death row around the United States violated the 1963 Vienna Convention, which provides that people arrested abroad should have access to their home country’s consular officials. The International Court of Justice, also known as the world court, said the Mexican prisoners should have new court hearings to determine whether the violation affected their cases.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, disagreed. Roberts said the international court decision cannot be forced upon the states. The president may not “establish binding rules of decision that pre-empt contrary state law,” Roberts said. Neither does the treaty, by itself, require individual states to take action.

Click on the link below to access the full opinion. If you cannot click on the link, copy and paste it into your browser. http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/07pdf/06-984.pdf

Snyder v. Louisiana
By a 7-2 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court found that prosecutor Jim Williams improperly excluded blacks from the jury that convicted Allen Snyder of killing his estranged wife’s companion. Snyder is black and the jurors were white. Justice Alito, writing for the majority, said the trial judge should have blocked Williams from striking a black juror. Justices Thomas and Scalia dissented. Thomas said he would not “second-guess” the judge. In a 4-3 decision, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that race had no part in the state’s decisions involving black potential jurors.

During jury selection in the trial, Williams disqualified all five blacks in the pool of prospective jurors. The Supreme Court ruled in 1986 that prosecutors may not exclude people from a jury solely because of their race. The court already had sent Snyder’s case back to the Louisiana courts following a ruling in 2005 that bolstered the prohibition on race bias in jury selection.

The prosecutor’s explanation for striking a prospective black juror was “suspicious,” said Alito. The prospective juror’s supervisor said he did not think a schedule conflict between the upcoming trial and the prospective juror’s work would be a problem. In contrast, the prosecutor accepted white jurors who disclosed conflicting obligations “that appear to have been at least as serious as” the prospective black juror who was excused, Alito wrote.

Stephen Bright, Snyder’s Atlanta-based lawyer, said the ruling shows there is broad agreement among the justices that courts must closely examine the reasons given for excusing potential jurors when racial motives might be present but not acknowledged. “The disturbing thing is that courts in Louisiana and elsewhere were just deferring to trial judges, no matter the reasons,” Bright said. Snyder will get a new trial as a result of the ruling.

Click on the link below to access the full opinion. If you cannot click on the link, copy and paste it into your browser. http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/07pdf/06-10119.pdf

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