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Supreme Court Recap - 2015 Term

No 8th District summary today; there were only three criminal decisions last week.  Instead, it's time for the annual wrap-up of SCOTUS decisions for the 2015 term.  The link is to the case in SCOTUSblog, where you can find a far more detailed analysis.  A brief summary of the decision follows, with links to my post on it, if any, and the actual court opinion.  If you need to look for it in the future, just type in "Supreme Court Recap 2015" in the search box.  If you type in "Supreme Court Recap," you'll get a recap for previous terms.

Betterman v. Montana.  The 6th Amendment's Speedy Trial provision applies only to trial, not to sentencing after trial.  (Post, opinion.) 

Birchfield v. North Dakota.  Actually three decisions, all holding that a warrant isn't necessary for a breath test in an OVI case, but is necessary for a blood test.  (Post, opinion.)

Foster v. Chatman.  Court finds that State's almost comical attempt to kick blacks off a jury in a death penalty case - their notes indicated they color-coded the black jurors - is a Batson violation.  Good thing, because if this wasn't, nothing would be.  (Post, post, opinion.) 

Hurst v. Florida.  Florida's death penalty scheme, in which a jury's recommendation of life is merely advisory, and can be overridden by the judge, is unconstitutional.  (Post, opinion.) 

Kansas v. Gleason and Kansas v. Carr.  Kansas Supreme Court vacated defendants' death sentences on grounds that jury could have been confused by instruction on burden of proof of mitigating circumstances.  Court holds that sentencing courts are not required to instruct a jury that mitigating circumstances need not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.  Decision driven in large part by truly heinous nature of crimes; after defendants executed four people, they returned to victims' home and beat their dog to death with a  golf club.  I'm opposed to the death penalty, but on the off chance these two ever get the needle, don't count on me being among the protesters.  (Post, opinion.) 

Luis v. United States.  The government can't seize untainted funds for restitution if it would inhibit the ability of the defendant to hire a lawyer.  (Post, opinion.) 

Mathis v. United StatesCase involving the "categorical" approach for violations of the Federal Armed Career Criminal Act, which imposes a 15-year sentence on a defendant who has two prior "violent" felonies.  Burglary is classified under the statute as a violent felony, but only if it involves entry into a building.   Although Mathis' five burglaries involved buildings, the Iowa statute also covered entries into airplanes or vehicles.  The Court held that application of the "categorical" approach - which ignores the facts of the case, and looks only to the elements -- meant Mathis' convictions weren't for violent felonies.  (Post, opinion.)

McDonnell v. United States.  McDonnell was convicted of the Federal bribery statute for taking gifts from a businessman in return for providing access to various state agencies.  The Court reversed his conviction, holding that his activities were "constitutionally protected and an intrinsic part of our political system."  (Post, opinion.)

Molina-Martinez v. United States.  If the judge makes an error in computing the sentencing guidelines, the case goes back, even if the actual sentence would be in the correct guidelines range.  (Post, opinion.) 

Montgomery v. Louisiana.  The Court's 2012 ruling in Miller v. Alabama held that mandatory life-without-parole sentences were unconstitutional.  Montgomery holds that discretionary LWOP juvenile sentences aren't permissible unless the juvenile is found to be "irreparably corrupt" or "permanently incorrigible."  (Post, opinion.) 

Musacchio v. United StatesThe statute of limitations is not a jurisdictional bar to prosecution; if the defendant doesn't raise it in the trial court, he waives it.  (Post, opinion.)

Nichols v. United States.  A sex offender who moves to a foreign country doesn't violate the requirement that he notify the state when he moves.  The law has subsequently been amended to provide that he does.  (Post, opinion.) 

Ocasio v. United States.  In a conspiracy charge under the Hobbs Act, which requires proof that a conspirator took money "from another," the "other" can be another member of the conspiracy.  (Opinion.) 

Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle.  The Double Jeopardy Clause prohibits dual prosecutions by the Federal government and Puerto Rico.  Calls into question the "dual sovereignty" doctrine, which permits both state and federal prosecution for the same crime.  (Post, opinion.) 

Taylor v. United States.  The Hobbs Act makes robbery a Federal crime if it affects interstate commerce.  Robbing a drug dealer does.  (Opinion.)

Utah v. Strieff.   An illegal stop doesn't void the subsequent discovery of evidence if it turns out the person stopped has an outstanding warrant, even for a minor traffic matter.  Maybe not the Worst 4th Amendment Decision Ever, but it's in the top five.  (Post, opinion.) 

Voisine v. United States.  Federal law prohibits someone convicted of domestic violence from owning a gun.  Court holds that this applies even if statute requires "reckless" conduct.  (Post, opinion.)

Welch v. United States.  Court holds that Johnson v. United States, which voided ACCA's residual clause, applies retroactively.  (Post, opinion.)

Williams v. Pennsylvania.  Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille, who was Philadelphia DA when he prosecuted Terrance Williams and got a death penalty, should have recused himself when Williams' appeal hit the court.  (Post, opinion.)


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