WBEZ | U.S. Supreme Court http://www.wbez.org/tags/us-supreme-court Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Should ban on mandatory life without parole encompass old juvie cases? http://www.wbez.org/news/should-ban-mandatory-life-without-parole-encompass-old-juvie-cases-109516 <p><p>In the summer of 2012, in a case called <em>Miller v. Alabama</em>, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles are cruel and unusual punishment, and therefore unconstitutional.</p><p>The key word here is &ldquo;mandatory.&rdquo; In the 1980s and 90s there was a lot of talk about young &ldquo;super predators&rdquo; and almost every state enacted tougher punishment for juveniles who committed violent crimes. Illinois was no exception.</p><p>The Supreme Court said that mandatory sentences don&rsquo;t let a judge consider extenuating circumstances such as the person&rsquo;s age, home life, how involved he was in the crime,&nbsp; and the potential for rehabilitation.</p><p>But the decision didn&rsquo;t entirely rule out life without parole sentences for juveniles&mdash;though the Court said they should be used only sparingly.</p><h2><strong>Thorny legal question</strong></h2><p>In its wake, <em>Miller</em> has raised a thorny legal question: Should it also apply to people in prison who as juveniles received mandatory life without parole sentences but now their appeals are over, and their case is closed?</p><p>The question has come up because several such people have requested new sentencing&nbsp; hearings. And Illinois&rsquo;s Appellate Court, citing the Miller decision, granted at least five of them &ndash; unanimously.</p><p>One of those five people is Addolfo Davis. Davis was arrested two months past his 14th birthday and he&rsquo;s never seen the streets since.</p><p>Today he&rsquo;s 37 and has spent almost two-thirds of his life behind bars. It&rsquo;s Addolfo&rsquo;s case that will be presented in oral arguments today, January 15, before the Illinois Supreme Court.Patricia Soung, who will represent Davis, tells WBEZ that on the night of his crime he went with two older co-defendants, at their instruction, to rob an apartment.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Two people were shot and killed that night by the two older co-defendants,&ldquo; she tells us. &ldquo;Davis was convicted of double homicide as an accomplice,&rdquo; she says, and ultimately received a mandatory life without parole sentence.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MILLER%20NEW_1.png" style="height: 280px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="WBEZ/Patrick Smith" />Alan Spellberg, who&rsquo;s supervisor of the criminal appeals division of the Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney&rsquo;s office, will represent the State of Illinois at the oral arguments. He has a different version of what happened that night.Davis, he says &ldquo;was an active participant in the planning, as well as in the shooting and killing.&rdquo;</div><p>The lawyers won&rsquo;t just be arguing the facts of the Davis case this day. They&rsquo;ll also debate whether <em>Miller v. Alabama</em> is so ground-breaking that it should apply to cases that are already settled.</p><p>Patricia Soung explains that &ldquo;the United States Supreme Court created two categories of rules that should be applied retroactively &ndash; &lsquo;substantive&rsquo; and &lsquo;watershed&rsquo; rules of criminal procedure.&rdquo;</p><p>In her opinion Miller is so sweeping that it falls into both categories.But not everyone agrees.</p><h2><strong>High bar</strong></h2><p>How exactly the court differentiates substantive from watershed is complex and open to interpretation.</p><p>I&rsquo;m not the only one who thinks these definitions can get murky.</p><p>Matt Jones, associate director of the Illinois Office of the State&rsquo;s Attorney, Appellate Prosecutor, thinks so too.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a sort of, I know it when I see it,&rdquo; he says, talking about whether a rule rises to a level worthy of being considered retroactive. &ldquo;Can we have a fair criminal justice system without this new procedural change?&rdquo; Matt Jones asks. &ldquo;If we can&rsquo;t -- then it&rsquo;s the kind of rule that has to be applied retroactively.&rdquo;</p><p>However. If we can have a fair system without the change, he says, it&rsquo;s something that should be implemented moving forward to improve the system &ldquo;but not something that we should necessarily go back and undo every case that has been done,&rdquo; he explains. &ldquo;Even if there are questions about whether each and every case was fair.&rdquo;</p><p>Jones says the U.S Supreme Court almost never considers a new rule earth-shaking enough to actually do this.</p><p>&ldquo;And I will tell you that the only instance that they&rsquo;ve ever cited as an example of that was <em>Gideon</em> &ndash; the right to counsel.&rdquo;</p><p>Counsel, that is, for defendants in criminal cases who couldn&rsquo;t afford to pay for an attorney. That seems like a rather high bar. One that Miller doesn&rsquo;t reach, according to many prosecutors across Illinois. I asked Patricia Soung if she&rsquo;s worried that the Miller decision isn&rsquo;t significant enough to meet that standard.</p><p>Turns out, she&rsquo;s not.</p><p>&ldquo;<em>Gideon</em> provided due process where none existed before and<em> Miller</em> does the same thing,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It gives you counsel where you essentially had no counsel at sentencing. The proceeding was made hollow because you were denied an opportunity to have your counsel present, mitigating factors in the same way as in<em> Gideon</em> a defendant without counsel had no opportunity to provide an adequate defense.&nbsp; So in both cases we&rsquo;re talking about providing due process where no due process existed at all.&rdquo;</p><p>Introducing the possibility of re-sentencing hearings for juvenile life without parole cases from long ago introduces a difficult problem. There could potentially be hundreds of victims and first-hand witnesses who&rsquo;ve been assured that the perpetrators are imprisoned for life.</p><p>&ldquo;Not only are the family members dragged back through this process,&rdquo; Matt Jones explains, &ldquo;but now key witnesses who depended upon this certainty that a conviction means a conviction, that life means life-- are now going to have be dragged back potentially through the process. Now with a re-sentencing you may not have to have those key witnesses come back, but their lives are similarly put on pins and needles awaiting the outcome of this person getting out. And life doesn&rsquo;t necessarily mean life for those witnesses.&rdquo;</p><p>These are gut-wrenching concerns, and so the Illinois Supreme Court will be venturing into complicated and emotional territory.</p><p>Court watchers expect a decision by the summer.</p><p><em>Clarification: While today&rsquo;s oral arguments were pending, Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney Alan Spellberg declined WBEZ&rsquo;s request for an interview. &nbsp;With permission from the Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney&rsquo;s office, WBEZ used tape of &nbsp;Spellberg from an interview conducted in March of 2012 whrn we were preparing a story about Addolfo Davis&rsquo; bid for clemency.&nbsp;</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 15 Jan 2014 01:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/should-ban-mandatory-life-without-parole-encompass-old-juvie-cases-109516 U.S. Supreme Court weighs in on Gov. Ryan's 2006 conviction http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-justice/us-supreme-court-weighs-gov-ryans-2006-conviction-98682 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS811_AP060417022104.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The U.S. Supreme Court is forcing the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to take another look at the case against former Illinois Gov. George Ryan in light of the high court’s opinion in a totally different case.</p><p>The opinion in that case, Wood v. Milyard, focuses on rather detailed and somewhat confusing procedural rules about what the appeals courts can consider. Ryan's attorney, Albert Alschuler, said this decision is a long ways from a new trial for the former governor and he says there's a lot more legal wrangling ahead.</p><p>Ryan was convicted of corruption in 2006 after a six-month trial and he's continued to put up a sustained legal fight since then, going through several rounds of appeals. Ryan has already served four and half years of his six and a half year sentence.</p></p> Mon, 30 Apr 2012 08:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-justice/us-supreme-court-weighs-gov-ryans-2006-conviction-98682 Quinn hits back against immigration checks http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-hits-back-against-immigration-checks-91065 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-26/deportation protest_flickr_presenteorg.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is trying to throw another wrench into a key immigration-enforcement program of President Obama’s administration, saying it ensnares too many people and erodes trust in local police.<br> <br> An <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/Quinn_office_to_Morton.pdf">August 18 letter</a> from the governor’s office to John Morton, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, hints about a possible legal challenge and asks the federal agency to contact all 26 Illinois counties that have agreed to participate in the program, called Secure Communities, to confirm they still want to take part.<br> <br> “This is the least that ICE can do,” says the letter, signed by John Schomberg, Quinn’s general counsel. “These counties signed up, along with the state, for a Secure Communities that is far different from the program” ICE first presented.</p><p>The Obama administration says the program helps focus immigration enforcement on repeat immigration violators and dangerous criminals, such as murderers and kidnappers.</p><p>ICE reports that Secure Communities has led to the deportation of more than 86,000 convicted criminals. Data from the agency show that about half of those immigrants were convicted of misdemeanors, not felonies.<br> <br> The program has led to the deportation of another 34,000 people not convicted of any crime. Voicing concerns about them, Quinn withdrew Illinois from Secure Communities in May. New York and Massachusetts followed with similar steps.<br> <br> But an August 5 letter from Morton to governors says states no longer have any choice and that Secure Communities will extend to all local law-enforcement jurisdictions in the United States by 2013. An addendum to the letter describes changes in the program. Those include the elimination of a state role in conveying data for the fingerprints.</p><div><hr style="border-width: initial; border-color: initial; "><blockquote><p><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><span style="font-size: 26px; "><em>"These counties signed up, along with the state, for a Secure Communities that is far different from the program"&nbsp;</em></span></span></p></blockquote><p><em>--John Schomberg, Quinn’s general counsel</em></p><hr style="border-width: initial; border-color: initial; "><p>Mark Fleming, an attorney with the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center, says ICE could end up in court if Secure Communities lacks the consent of the local jurisdictions. “The governor’s office may be laying the groundwork for a legal challenge,” Fleming says.</p></div><p>Fleming points to 1990s rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court affirming that the 10th Amendment bars Congress from compelling state and local governments to administer federal regulations.<br> <br> Asked whether Illinois officials are cooking up a lawsuit, a Quinn spokeswoman refers to Schomberg’s letter, which says the governor’s office “will continue to monitor and evaluate” Secure Communities and “consider all of the state’s options.”<br> <br> ICE representatives did not respond to WBEZ requests for comment on whether Secure Communities violates the 10th Amendment.<br> <br> The Obama administration lately has downplayed agreements through which it first brought state and local governments into the federal initiative. “We wanted to work with the locals and let them know about the program,” says Jon Gurule, an ICE official who helped set up Secure Communities.<br> <br> “But, from the operational side, it’s federal information sharing between two federal agencies,” Gurule adds, referring to ICE and the FBI. “And it’s congressionally mandated.”<br> <br> If ICE checks in with the Illinois counties, as the Illinois letter asks, the federal agency would find some with second thoughts about joining Secure Communities. “If they honor the governor’s request, I would not want to partake in it,” says Patrick Perez, sheriff of west suburban Kane County, part of the program since 2009.<br> <br> “The program has not turned out to be what it was supposed to be,” Perez says, pointing to the deportation of non-criminals. “People in the Hispanic community have become very reticent to contact police if they’re victims of crime because they’re fearful that . . . they will be deported.”<br> <br> The federal initiative also has defenders. “My life has been destroyed by all of this cheap, foreign scab labor,” says a 56-year-old network engineer in Chicago, blaming immigrants for his unemployment and asking that his name not be published because he’s job hunting. “Whether it’s illegal aliens or foreign legal workers, they’re hurting American citizens.”<br> <br> “Secure Communities removes the criminals,” he says, “and that’s a start.”</p></p> Thu, 25 Aug 2011 22:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-hits-back-against-immigration-checks-91065 High Court OKs Sales Of Violent Video Game To Kids http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-27/high-court-oks-sales-violent-video-game-kids-88425 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-28/117510628.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The U.S. Supreme Court, wrapping up its current term, has struck down California's ban on the sale of violent video games to children. A divided court majority said the law violates the Constitution's guarantee of free expression.</p><p>In 2005, California enacted a law that imposed a $1,000 fine on retailers any time they sold a violent video game to a minor. The state cited social science studies that it said showed kids who play these games for many hours are desensitized to violence and become more aggressive in their behavior. But the U.S. Supreme Court rejected those arguments on Monday, and struck down the law.</p><p>Technically, the court was split 7-to-2, but the various concurring and dissenting opinions more closely resembled a 5-4 split.</p><p>Writing for five members of the court, Justice Antonin Scalia said video games are like books, plays and movies, expression protected by the First Amendment, and the government has "no free-floating power" to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed.</p><p><strong>Violence Is Part Of Youth Entertainment</strong></p><p>Since the founding of the republic, he said, the court has permitted restrictions on speech in only a few very narrowly defined areas — obscenity, incitement and fighting words. Violence cannot be "shoehorn[ed]" into any of these categories, Scalia said, even when the violent expression is consumed by children.</p><p>With great gusto, Scalia noted that there is "no shortage of gore" in the books parents routinely read to children. Grimm's Fairly Tales "are grim indeed," he observed; Cinderella's wicked stepsisters have their eyes pecked out by doves, and Hansel and Gretel kill their captor by baking her in an oven. In truth, said Scalia, California's ban on violent video games is just "the latest in a long series of failed attempts to censor violent entertainment for minors," be it dime-store novels, movies and even Superman comics, which, in their time, were portrayed as leading to juvenile delinquency.</p><p>The justifications offered in this case against violent video games, he said, are no better than those offered in the past against other forms of violent entertainment. "We do not mean to demean or disparage" parental concerns about violent video games, said Scalia, a father of nine and grandfather of 32. "Our task" is to determine whether the regulation of these games is valid under the First Amendment. "The answer plainly is no."</p><p>Joining him in the majority were Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — an ideological smorgasbord.</p><p><strong>Children Need Protection</strong></p><p>Defenders of the ban on violent video games were disappointed, but took credit for the tough labeling and sales restrictions that the video game industry voluntarily put into place after the law was enacted.</p><p>"I think we definitely hit the industry over the head with a 2-by-4," said James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, a leading kids and media organization in the United States. "Over the last five or six years, the industry has become far more accountable and much more careful about selling those kinds of games to minors."</p><p>The court's majority opinion in the case took up just 18 pages and "reads as though this was the easiest case in the world to decide on straightforward free speech principles," said Marci A. Hamilton, constitutional law professor at Cardozo School of Law.</p><p>The dissenting and concurring opinions, however, took up a grand total of 56 pages.</p><p>Two justices — Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts — concurred in the judgment to strike down California's law, but on much narrower grounds. They would have invalidated the law because the definition of prohibited violent games was unconstitutionally vague. But writing for the two, Alito said, "We should not jump to the conclusion that new technology is fundamentally the same as some older [form of speech] with which we are familiar."</p><p>Describing with horror some of the violent games he had found in his research, Alito said the court majority was acting "prematurely" in dismissing the possibility that these games could prove injurious to young people.</p><p>"In some of these games," wrote Alito, "the violence is astounding." He listed an arsenal of weapons used — "machine guns, shotguns, clubs, hammers, axes, swords, and chainsaws" — and details the injuries that players can inflict – "[v]ictims are dismembered, decapitated, disemboweled, set on fire, and chopped into little pieces. They cry out in agony and beg for mercy."</p><p>Alito even provided plot lines for some of the most disturbing games, including re-enacting the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings and the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy, raping a mother and her daughter, raping Native American women and engaging in ethnic cleansing.</p><p><strong>Founders Would Agree With The Ban</strong></p><p>Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer each dissented.</p><p>Thomas said the framers of the Constitution did not envision any freedom of speech at all for minors.</p><p>Referring to the "Puritan tradition" of child rearing in the 18th century and the "absolute authority" parents had over their minor children, Thomas said, "[i]t would be absurd to suggest that such a society understood the 'freedom of speech' to include a right to speak to minors (or a corresponding right of minors to access speech)."</p><p>But Justice Breyer's dissent took a different tack. He said the California law was "no more than a modest restriction on expression" and that the legislature –- and not the judiciary –- is best equipped to evaluate psychological studies on the effect of violent video games on youths.</p><p>"This Court has always thought it owed an elected legislature some degree of deference," said Breyer, particularly on matters that "involve technical matters that are beyond our competence, even in First Amendment cases."</p><p><strong>Free Expression Takes Priority</strong></p><p>Monday's decision seems to send a signal that the court is not willing to chip away at the First Amendment in order to achieve other social policies.</p><p>"The answer that we're getting pretty clearly from a solid majority of the court is that" parental pressure, and market pressure, through labeling, are the only way to limit child access to these games, said Notre Dame law professor Richard Garnett. Regardless of "how harmful" these games may be, he said, "these are harms that the court seems to think that the First Amendment doesn't let the government solve directly through regulation." <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. </p> Mon, 27 Jun 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-27/high-court-oks-sales-violent-video-game-kids-88425 High Court: Age must be considered in interrogation http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-16/high-court-age-must-be-considered-interrogation-87976 <p><p>The U.S. Supreme Court has broadened use of the Miranda warning for suspects, extending it to children questioned by police in school. By a 5-to-4 vote, the court said for the first time on Thursday that age must be considered in determining whether a suspect is aware of his or her rights.</p><p>This case, involving a 13-year-old North Carolina boy identified only as J.D.B., will likely change police practices across the country. Experts say that police questioning, particularly in school, can no longer be presumed to be legally permissible without advising a youngster of his or her rights.</p><p>J.D.B., a special-education seventh grader, was pulled out of his classroom by a uniformed officer and escorted to a conference room where he faced a police investigator, the assistant principal and two other school officials.</p><p>For more than half an hour, the investigator interrogated J.D.B. about a string of local burglaries. The boy's legal guardian, his grandmother, was never contacted, and he was not given a Miranda warning — the warnings routinely given by police to criminal suspects once they are taken into custody.</p><p>While the police officer later told J.D.B. that he was free to leave, he also told the boy that the police could get a court order to put him in juvenile detention, and the school's assistant principal advised the boy to "do the right thing."</p><p>J.D.B. eventually confessed, and helped police recover the stolen items. At trial, his lawyer tried to get the confession thrown out on the grounds that given J.D.B.'s age and the circumstances of the interrogation, the confession was, in essence, coerced, and that the boy should have been advised of his right to an attorney and to remain silent. The state countered that the boy had been free to leave, that he, therefore, was not in custody, and that age should not be considered in determining whether police warn suspects of their rights. The North Carolina courts agreed.</p><p><strong>Court's Ruling</strong></p><p>But on Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court for the first time ruled that the age of a child subjected to police questioning is relevant. Writing for the five-member court majority, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said there is "no reason for police officers or courts to blind themselves to [the] commonsense reality" that "children will often feel bound to submit to police questioning when an adult in the same circumstances" would not. Indeed, Sotomayor said that a student required by law to attend school, and who is subject to disciplinary action for disobedience, might well believe that he or she must answer all police questions.</p><p>"Our history is replete with laws and judicial recognition that children cannot be viewed simply as miniature adults," said Sotomayor, concluding that because children are different — less mature, less capable of judgment and more susceptible to influence — police and judges must consider age in determining whether a child should have been advised of his or her legal rights.</p><p>Joining her in the majority were Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.</p><p>Justice Samuel Alito wrote the dissent for the court's four most conservative justices. The dissenters said, essentially, that the beauty of the Miranda rule is that it is simple and objective. A suspect must be Mirandized once he is in police custody — in short, when he cannot leave. Thursday's ruling, wrote Alito, "blurs" that line and "is fundamentally at odds" with the clarity of the Miranda rule.</p><p><strong>Mixed Reaction</strong></p><p>Reaction to the decision was mixed, but police, prosecutors and juvenile justice advocates alike said the decision would require police in many places to revamp their practices in dealing with juveniles.</p><p>"The pressure" on police now "is basically to err on the side of caution, to give the Miranda warning almost every time," said John Charles Thomas, who represents the National District Attorneys Association.</p><p>Stephen A. Saltzburg, a professor of criminal law at George Washington University, agreed.</p><p>"The concern here," said Saltzburg, "is that now you are going to have to take into account whether someone is 7 or 9 or 13 or 16, and how is the police officer going to do that? I think the answer is: When in doubt, give Miranda warnings."</p><p>But it is unclear how Thursday's decision will affect the way police interact with student-suspects. "In many places, there's a routine practice of trying to contact a parent," said Saltzburg. "But in many [other] instances, if the parent is not available, the police have good reason not to want to delay, and in some instances, the fact is that they don't want the parent present. And unless the law requires the parent to be present, they will proceed with an interrogation."</p><p>The case gives a "real world" look at how police operate, says Eugene O'Donnell, a former New York City Police officer, prosecutor, defense counsel, and now a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Pointing to the facts of this case, he noted that the police investigator "took great pains to orchestrate an environment where he would not have to give the Miranda warnings," said O'Donnell. "A lot of people think that cops are dying to take out that Miranda card and read the rights to suspects. But in fact the police are very reticent to do that. They rely on .. getting people to talk."</p><p>Steven Drizen, legal director at Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful Conviction, calls Thursday's ruling "huge."</p><p>"This is the first time the court has applied Miranda to an interrogation that takes place in the schools, which is the site of many interrogations of children," said Drizen. "This is huge because when police go to locate suspects who are children, the first place they often go is to their school. And many times, police officers will question suspects at the school under the belief that if they do so, then they don't have to apply Miranda because it's not a station-house interrogation. ... It's been a loophole ... and this decision will close that loophole."</p><p>Indeed, "juveniles make up a disproportionate number of those who falsely confess," added Drizen, citing recent studies that demonstrate juveniles account for fully one-third of wrongful convictions based on false confessions. "The pressures of police interrogations weigh much more heavily on a juvenile suspect than they do on an adult suspect" leading to "exponentially higher" false confession rates among juveniles, said Drizen.</p><p><strong>Decision's Possible Impact</strong></p><p>Child advocates were thrilled with Thursday's ruling. "The court [issued] a resounding statement that whether we look to simple common sense or whether we look to research, there's no question that the characteristics of age and adolescence are relevant when we think of children's rights under the Constitution," said Marsha Levick, deputy director of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia.</p><p>ACLU Legal Director Steven R. Shapiro said that the decision must be considered in light of the trend of referring disciplinary actions to the courts instead of the principal's office. "Increasingly, misbehavior that used to be treated as a school disciplinary problem is now treated as a law enforcement problem," said Shapiro. "At a minimum, therefore, we have to ensure that students' rights are protected in those circumstances, and the decision is a step in that direction."</p><p>Others, like George Washington University's Saltzburg wonder whether giving Miranda warnings to kids will make any difference. "The reality," said Saltzburg, "is that even with Miranda warnings, it's doubtful that young people understand exactly what it all means and understand their choices, and so in the long run, I doubt that there will be many fewer confessions because of this opinion."</p><p>Indeed, the Supreme Court specifically left unanswered the question of whether a formal Miranda warning will suffice when given to a child, and what, if anything, police must do to make sure kids who are questioned do understand their rights.</p><p><strong>Chemical Weapons Treaty</strong></p><p>In other decisions handed down on Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that citizens, not just states, can challenge the constitutionality of federal laws implementing the chemical weapons treaty.</p><p>The court's ruling came in a case with facts worthy of a soap opera. Carol Anne Bond discovered that her husband had fathered a child with her best friend and vowed revenge. Over an eight-month period, she placed toxic chemicals on the mistress' front doorknob, car handle and mailbox. The substance, however, was easily visible and the mistress suffered only a minor injury to her thumb.</p><p>When local police failed to act, the federal government stepped in and charged Bond with violating the chemical weapons treaty-enactment laws. She was sentenced to six years in prison.</p><p>But Bond challenged the treaty-enactment laws, contending they amounted to an unconstitutional federal usurpation by of states rights.</p><p>A federal appeals court in Pennsylvania rejected the argument, ruling that only a state can assert that the federal government is infringing its sovereignty.</p><p>On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously reversed that decision. The high court said Bond could pursue her claim, but gave no hint that she was right in her states' rights claim.</p><p>Writing for the court, Justice Kennedy said that "[f]idelity to principles of federalism is not for the states alone to vindicate" and that "claims of individuals ... have been the principal source of judicial decisions concerning separation of powers and checks and balances." Writing in a concurring opinion, Justice Ginsburg said that Bond "had a personal right not to be convicted under a constitutionally invalid law" and therefore had the right to challenge this law.</p><p><strong>Prison Sentences</strong></p><p>In another criminal law decision, the court ruled unanimously that a federal judge cannot impose a longer prison sentence than what the sentencing guidelines permit simply to promote rehabilitation. In the case before the court, a judge imposed a 51-month sentence on Alejandra Tapia for smuggling illegal immigrants into the country. The sentence was at the outer edge of the sentencing guidelines, and the judge said he was imposing the longer sentence so that the defendant could qualify for all 500 hours of a federal drug-treatment program. The Supreme Court, however, said the judge went too far.</p><p>Writing for the court, Justice Kagan noted that for nearly a century federal law was based on the use of sentencing and parole to promote rehabilitation. But Congress, she added, abandoned that approach to focus more on retribution, deterrence and incapacitation. While rehabilitation may be considered, she said, Congress made clear that "imprisonment is not an appropriate means of promoting rehabilitation."</p><p><strong>Legality Of Searches</strong></p><p>In a fourth criminal law decision, the court upheld the conviction of an Alabama man, though the justices agreed the search that produced the incriminating evidence was illegal.</p><p>The case arose as a result of a shift in the court's approach to vehicle searches conducted at the time of an arrest of a passenger in the car. In this case, police conducting a routine traffic stop arrested the driver of a car for drunken driving and a passenger for giving a false name. The police then searched the car and found a gun in the passenger's jacket pocket. The passenger, Willie Gene Davis, was indicted on one count of a illegal possession of a firearm by a felon. The lower courts, following the existing law at the time, ruled that the search was legal. But while Davis' appeal was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that searches like this one are illegal.</p><p>On Thursday the court nonetheless refused to disturb the firearm conviction, declaring that at the time the search was conducted, police relied in good faith on existing law. The court said that since the rule that generally excludes illegally obtained evidence is designed to deter police misconduct, and there was no misconduct here, it would therefore serve no purpose to overturn the conviction.</p><p>The 7-to-2 ruling was written by Justice Samuel Alito. Justices Breyer and Ginsburg dissented. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. </p> Thu, 16 Jun 2011 20:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-16/high-court-age-must-be-considered-interrogation-87976 Supreme Court denies Burris' appeal http://www.wbez.org/story/supreme-court-denies-burris-appeal-87465 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/archives/images/cityroom/cityroom_20100803_ssmith_150629_Illi_large.png" alt="" /><p><p>WASHINGTON -- Months after Illinois' new senator took office, the Supreme Court says it will not consider overturning the election of President Barack Obama's replacement in the U.S. Senate.</p><p>The high court on Monday turned away an appeal from former Illinois Sen. Roland Burris, who was appointed to the seat but did not get chance to run for a full term. The justices also refused to hear an appeal from state officials who objected to a court order to hold a special election as well as a regular election for Obama's old seat.</p><p>The seat was won by Republican Senator Mark Kirk.</p></p> Mon, 06 Jun 2011 15:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/supreme-court-denies-burris-appeal-87465 Conrad Black denied US Supreme Court Appeal http://www.wbez.org/story/conrad-black-denied-us-supreme-court-appeal-87248 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/archives/images/cityroom/cityroom_20100929_tarnold_1340676_Conr_large.png" alt="" /><p><p>The U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal made by media mogul Conrad Black.<br> <br> Conrad Black is the former head of Hollinger International. The media empire once included the <em>Chicago Sun-Times</em>, along with many other papers. But in 2009 the <em>Sun-Times</em> was forced to file for bankruptcy protection. That's because Black and colleagues embezzled money from their firm plus the Sun-Times had to pay Black's astronomical legal fees.<br> <br> Since then Black's convictions have been playing out like a ping-pong match between the US Supreme Court and lower courts. Last year the Supreme Court curtailed the honest services fraud law and ordered the lower courts to take another look at Black's case. But the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a fraud conviction. That caused Black's most recent appeal back to the Supreme Court, which was denied today.<br> <br> Black is scheduled to be re-sentenced on June 24th before a federal judge in Chicago.<br> &nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 31 May 2011 20:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/conrad-black-denied-us-supreme-court-appeal-87248 Supreme Court Majority To Attend State Of Union http://www.wbez.org/story/chief-justice-john-roberts/supreme-court-majority-attend-state-union <p><p>Chief Justice John Roberts will lead a contingent of six Supreme Court justices at the State of the Union address Tuesday night. That word from the Supreme Court, ending speculation that he would skip the event.</p><p>Roberts has attended every State of the Union since his appointment in 2005. But after last year's speech, he suggested he might not in the future.</p><p>In the 2010 State of the Union speech, President Obama criticized a decision by the conservative Court majority that unleashed corporate and union spending in elections.</p><p>In response, Justice Samuel Alito shook his head and mouthed the words, "not true."</p><p>The chief justice later characterized the event as a "public hazing," in which members of the Court "according to protocol," have to sit by, expressionless, surrounded by members of Congress "cheering and hollering."</p><p></p><p>Those comments seemed a signal that Roberts would not attend again. But in the wake of the Tucson shootings, he has apparently reconsidered.</p><p>After all, the mood of the country right now seems to call for alleviating, not aggravating divisions.</p><p>The court would not identify who the other five justices are who plan to attend, but it is believed that they are Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, Clinton appointees Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Obama appointees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.</p><p>That leaves as absentees the Court's most conservative Justices — Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas.</p><p>Alito is out of town, teaching a course in Hawaii. Scalia has not attended since 1997, and Thomas rarely attends, though he did attend President Obama's first speech in 2009.</p><p>In reality, Supreme Court attendance is often spotty, even non-existent.</p><p>Breyer is the only Justice who thinks going is important, and since 2001, he has four times been the only Justice there. Indeed, in 2000, when he was sick, none of the Justices went.</p><p>So the decision by Scalia and Thomas not to go is hardly remarkable. However, the two conservatives have been in the limelight over the past few days for other reasons.</p><p>Justice Scalia gave a lecture on the Constitution to the Tea Party Caucus Monday night, which sparked heated cries of partisanship.</p><p>But the controversy fizzled when the caucus invited Democrats to participate and when legal ethics experts said there was nothing wrong with Scalia's appearance, especially since he talks to the ACLU too.</p><p>Justice Thomas, on the other hand, couldn't escape his critics so easily when it turned out that he failed to disclose information about his wife's income, as required under the Ethics In Government Act.</p><p>After the liberal watchdog group Common Cause revealed the omission over the weekend, Thomas amended his financial disclosure forms for 13 years, detailing her employment — including nearly $700,000 in salary over four years from the conservative Heritage Foundation.</p><p>Thomas said the omission was based on a "misunderstanding of the filing instructions." There is no criminal penalty for such a failure to disclose. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1295997131?&gn=Supreme+Court+Majority+To+Attend+State+Of+Union&ev=event2&ch=129828651&h1=Chief+Justice+John+Roberts,Supreme+Court,White+House,Congress,It%27s+All+Politics,U.S.+Supreme+Court,Politics,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=133219813&c7=1001&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1001&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110125&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=133220392,131341377,130357600,130215202,129828651,125953472,133207016,133206999,127612725,127602855,126932793,103943429,133093599,130357600,130215202,129866764,129828651,126026613,132034718,131539387,130215202,129828651,125951916,133210683,127602855,127602802,103943429&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Tue, 25 Jan 2011 16:43:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/chief-justice-john-roberts/supreme-court-majority-attend-state-union