Supreme Court Preview
This week is the last batch of arguments in the Ohio Supreme Court for a while, except for a handful of disciplinary cases next month. Among the highlights:
State v. Jones: The Court certified the following issue:
Whether a trial court complies with Crim. R. 11(E) by simply notifying a defendant of the effect of his/her plea as set out in Crim. R. 11(B) or whether the trial court complies with Crim. R. 11(E) by notifying a defendant of the maximum penalties that could result from a plea and that the defendant waives his/her right to a jury trial by entering a plea but does not notify a defendant of the effect of his/her plea."
See how many times you have to read that before it makes sense. I figure the over/under is six. Actually, it's not as complicated as it sounds: the court of appeals had tossed defendant's guilty plea to a domestic violence charge because the trial court didn't advise the defendant of the effect of a guilty plea, or of a no-contest plea. The question is whether that's required by the rules.
State v. Siler: This is a Crawford case, involving the question of whether a three-year-old's statements to the police about the murder of his mother qualify as testimonial statements. The appellate court had actually affirmed the conviction in 2003, but Crawford came down while Siler's case was on cert application before the Supreme Court. The Court vacated the conviction remanded it back to the appellate court for further consideration in light of Crawford, and the 5th District then reversed the conviction. It's one of the most significant Crawford cases to come down in a while, squarely raising the issue of how much the declarant's intent means in determining whether a statement is testimonial. I'll have a post or two on this next week.
State v. Fairbanks: In this case, the defendant had led the police on a car chase. He was cited on the scene for reckless operation, speeding, and driving left of center; he paid the waiver fines on the tickets a week later. Shortly after that, he was indicted for failulre to comply (the old "fleeing and eluding"), a third-degree felony, for the same incident. The 4th District held that the felony prosecution was barred by double jeopardy as a result of the prior misdemeanor convictions. The 8th and 12th Districts have decided the issue differently, and now it's up to the Supreme Court to sort through it all.
Fisher v. Hasenjager: A fairly significant issue in this case, for divorce attorneys: does a modification of a shared parenting agreement, so as to designate only one parent as the custodian, require a showing of "changed circumstances," commonly required for custody modification, or is it sufficient that such a change merely be "in the best interests of the child"? The 3rd District answered the latter, but there's conflicting case law from other districts.
I also wanted to follow up on a few other posts I've done. As I'd mentioned on Monday, US v. Claiborne was one of the most highly-anticipated cases on the Supreme Court docket this year, promising to provide some clarification of the Booker decision on the remaining effect of the Federal sentencing guidelines. At least, it was highly anticipated, until Claiborne went and got himself killed in a botched robbery attempt last week. As I'd indicated in my post, that mooted the case, and this week the Court sent the case back to the 8th Circuit with instructions to vacate its decision, putting an end to it. The 8th Circuit Public Defender's office had filed a brief with the court asking to substitute another case which raised the same issue, but no word on that.
Then, last December I wrote about Kathyrn Johnston, a 92-year-old Atlanta woman who died in a police drug raid on her house. It was a "no-knock" raid, and she'd apparently thought she was being burglarized, and fired a shot at the police as they broke down her door; they fired 39 shots in return, six of which hit their target, and killed her.
The search warrant for the raid was based on an affidavit which claimed that an informant had bought drugs at the house earlier that day. Turns out that was untrue; the police had gotten a tip that there was a large stash of cocaine in the house from a street informant, then made up the part about the sale, and also about surveillance cameras being mounted outside the house, in order to justify the "no-knock" provision. Nothing more than a minute quantity of marijuana.
Back in February, three of the officers were indicted for murder and other assorted crimes. One has since pled guilty to manslaughter, criminal solicitation, violation of oath, perjury, and making false statements. The case remains pending against the other two. An ongoing FBI investigation has revealed that Atlanta police routinely lied in search warrant affidavits.