SCOTUS Allows Impeachment with Statements Taken in Violation of Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel

Statements taken in violation of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel are inadmissible as part of the state’s substantive case against an accused, but should they be admissibile for impeachment purposes. The Court had previously ruled that statements taken in violation of the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent could be admitted at trial. Unfortunately, the Court recently extended this to include statements taken in violation of the Sixth Amendment. Kansas v Vetris, SCOTUS No. 07-1356 For a detailed criticism of the court’s ruling, check out Professor Mark Godsey’s blog here and here.

New Mexico Repeals the Death Penalty

I just got back from the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys seminar in Santa Fe New Mexico and what perfect timing. We didn’t know it at the time that the conference was planned, but New Mexico abolished the death penalty just before we came and we got to join in the celebrations. The repeal is not perfect. It is not retroactive and is statutory (rather than constitutional), but Yipee!. For more on the abrogation, check out this New York Times article.

Federal Defender's Can Represent State Capital Defendants in Clemency Proceedings

The federal statute, 28 USC 2253, that requires state prisoners to obtain a certificate of appealability before challenging a district court ruling in habeas corpus proceedings does not apply to appeals of orders denying requests for federally appointed counsel. The statute governs only final orders that dispose of a habeas corpus proceeding's merits. Federally appointed counsel are authorized to represent clients in state clemency proceedings and are entitled to compensation for that representation. Harbison v Bell, SCOTUS No 07-8521.

SCOTUS Bars Confessions Taken After an Unreasonable Delay

On the heels of MIranda v Arizona, 384 US 436 (1966), Congress passed 18 USC 350. This law states that the voluntariness of a suspect's statements is the sole determinant of their admissibility in federal court. The purpose of the rule was to overrule Miranda v Arizona, 384 US 436 (1966). The question presented in COrley was whether the law modified the McNabb-Mallory (McNabb v United States, 318 US 332 (1943) and Mallory v United States, 354 US 449 (1957)) which barred the admission of an arrestee's confession given after an unreasonable delay in bringing him before a judge. The high Court ruled that the statute merely guarantees the admission of voluntary statements made within six hours of a suspects' arrest. Without the McNabb-Mallory rule, federal agents would be free to question suspects for extended periods before bringing them out in the open, “and we have always known what custodial secrecy leads to.” Corley v United States, SCOTUS No. 07-10441.

MI COA Says That An Expungment Does Not Entitle a Defendant to Get His Fingerprints Returned

The Defendants in the Benjamin case sucessfully completed their probation and the charges against them were dropped. At the conclusion of these proceedings, the trial court ordered the destruction of their fingerprints and arrest cards pursuant to MCL 333.7411. The Court of Appeals reversed. The Appellate Court stated that even though the Defendants successfully completed their probation and the charges against them were dismissed, the defendants were not found “not guilty” for purposes of the expungement statute, (MCL 28.24398). The trial court erroneously equated a discharge and dismissal under MCL 333.7411 with a finding of not guilty; a defendant must either be found guilty or plead guilty in order to benefit from MCL 333.7411. People v Benjamin, Court of Appeals No. 281899.