by Kent Scheidegger
Here is a summary of the decisions of the United States Supreme
Court in criminal and related cases in the last month of its October
2000 term. A summary of the full term will appear in the next
issue of Engage.
Penry v. Johnson (June 4): The trial court's
attempt to instruct the jury in a way that reconciled the Supreme
Court's first decision in Penry's case, Penry v. Lynaugh,
492 U.S. 302 (1989), with the then-existing Texas sentencing statute
was unsuccessful. It did not make sufficiently clear to the
jury that it could consider and give effect to mitigating evidence,
even if that evidence would not justify a "no" answer
to one of the three Texas special issues. The statute was
amended shortly thereafter, so this holding only directly affects
cases in a narrow time window.
The state court had also held that use of a psychiatric
interview from a prior case did not violate Penry's self-incrimination
rights under Estelle v. Smith, 451 U.S. 454 (1984).
The Supreme Court held that the state court had made a reasonable
application of its precedents, and habeas relief was therefore not
available under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
Florida v. Thomas (June 4): The Court granted
certiorari to further define the limits of the rule allowing search
of an arrestee's car under New York v. Belton, 453
U.S. 454 (1981). However, the Court decided sua sponte
that the decision it was reviewing was not a final judgment, which
is a jurisdictional prerequisite in cases coming to the U.S. Supreme
Court from state courts under 28 U.S.C. § 1257(a).
Kyllo v. United States (June 11): Use of a
thermal imaging device to sense heat patterns radiated from a house
is a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.
A warrant is required, unless an exception applies.
Alabama v. Bozeman (June 11): The anti-shuttling
provision of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers forbids a state
which has obtained custody of a prisoner through IAD to return him
before trial. The sanction in the statute is dismissal with
prejudice. The Court held there is no "de minimus"
Cedric Kushner Promotions, Ltd. v. King (June 11):
For RICO purposes (18 U.S.C. § 1962(c)), a corporation is a
legally distinct entity from its sole shareholder.
Saucier v. Katz (June 18): When a police officer
is sued for use of allegedly excessive force in an arrest, the officer
is entitled to qualified immunity if he reasonably could have believed
that the amount of force used was legal under the circumstances.
The fact that the standard for legal force is also a "reasonableness"
inquiry does not cause the immunity inquiry to merge with the merits.
Summary judgment for the officer is appropriate unless the law put
the officer on notice that the degree of force was clearly unlawful.
Duncan v. Walker (June 18): The statute of
limitations for federal habeas petitions is not tolled during the
pendency of a prior federal petition.
INS v. St. Cyr & Calcano-Martinez v. INS
(June 25): Habeas corpus remains available, under the basic
habeas corpus statute, 28 U.S.C. § 2241, to review questions
of pure law arising in the deportation of aliens who have committed
certain crimes. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant
Responsibility Act repealed direct judicial review of the Board
of Immigration Appeals' decision in these cases, but did not repeal
or amend the residual habeas jurisdiction.
The repeal of discretionary waiver of deportation
is not retroactive to aliens who would have been eligible at the
time of their guilty pleas.
Zadvydas v. Davis (June 28): A deportable alien
whose home country will not take him back cannot be incarcerated
Tyler v. Cain (June 28): Under 28 U.S.C. §
2244(b)(1)(A), a successive habeas corpus petition cannot be considered
on the ground of a new rule of constitutional law unless the Supreme
Court itself has held that the new rule applies retroactively to
cases on collateral review.