4th Amendment, Constitution, criminal law, Due Process, Faculty Blog, Fourth Amendment, Friedman, Hansen, New England Law Review, Trump, U.S. Supreme Court

Faculty Blog: The Post-9/11 Weight of Korematsu

Associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump have suggested that the infamous Supreme Court decision upholding the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, Korematsu v. United States, could be used to justify measures aimed at tracking and potentially detaining Muslim-Americans and Muslim immigrants. As Professor Noah Feldman has recently noted, the Korematsu decision is widely regarded today as having been wrongly decided and it has been, as Justice Stephen G. Breyer has put it, “discredited.” But there is another reason why the precedential value of Korematsu has been diminished: its basic premise has been undermined by the Supreme Court’s more recent decisions in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld and Boumediene v. Bush.

4th Amendment, 5th Amendment, 6th Amendment, Constitution, criminal law, Criminal Procedure, Exclusionary Rule, Faculty Blog, Fifth Amendment, First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Friedman, New England Law Review, Privacy, U.S. Supreme Court

Faculty Blog: Utah v. Strieff: The Court Reminds Us That Constitutional Privacy is Essentially Meaningless

By: Lawrence M. Friedman  The U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from pursuing its policy goals in ways that conflict with individual rights protections—except, as the Supreme Court reminds us in its decision in Utah v. Strieff, where the protection of privacy under the Fourth Amendment is concerned. The remedy for a Fourth Amendment violation is exclusion of the evidence obtained as a result of an illegal search or seizure. Deterrence of governmental misconduct has been the animating principle of the exclusionary rule for decades (though it was originally just one of several rationales), and the nature of the Court’s cost-benefit deterrence analysis has led it, time and again, to conclude that the costs of suppression outweigh any potentially beneficial deterrent effect. As Justice Clarence Thomas explains in the opening paragraph of his opinion for the majority in Strieff, “even when there is a Fourth Amendment violation, [the] exclusionary rule does not apply when the costs of exclusion outweigh its deterrent benefits.”

4th Amendment, 5th Amendment, 6th Amendment, criminal law, Criminal Procedure, Due Process, Faculty Blog, Fifth Amendment, First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Hansen, New England Law Review, Sixth Amendment, U.S. Supreme Court

Faculty Blog: Williams v. Pennsylvania Raises Major Concerns About U.S. Justice System

Professor Eldred wrote that this latest decision is a missed opportunity by the Court that could undermine the long-term value of the decision, particularly when, as Professor Eldred notes, there was significant literature and research in this area available to the Court. Here, I want to address another issue raised by the facts of the case that should alarm anyone concerned about the fairness of our criminal justice system—namely, the role of the prosecutor. While I can’t say that this was another missed opportunity by the Court to address the question since it was not directly before the Court, the troubling story recounted by the facts of the case serves as an important backdrop and raises important questions about the quality of justice in death penalty and other cases. In its recounting of the facts of the case, the Court noted that the prosecutor assigned to the murder case against Williams sent a two-page memorandum to the district attorney requesting approval to seek the death penalty. The then-district attorney, later Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, approved the request by writing: “Approved to proceed on the death penalty.” The case before the Court was about whether the district attorney who penned that approval could some 30 years later sit as one of the justices on the court called upon to vacate William’s stay of execution. The Supreme Court also noted a number of Brady violations that the prosecuting attorney allegedly committed in the case, as well as the fact that none of this information—the prosecution memo and approval by the district attorney or the possible Brady violations—came to light until the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas ordered the district attorney’s office to produce previously undisclosed files, many years after Williams’ trial.

5th Amendment, 6th Amendment, criminal law, Criminal Procedure, Due Process, Equal Protection, Faculty Blog, Federal Courts, Federalism, Gideon, Miranda, New England Law Review, Police Interrogation, Policy, prosecutors, Right to Counsel, Siegel, Sixth Amendment, transitional justice

Faculty Blog: Luis v. United States and a Right to Counsel for the Rich

By: David M. Siegel The Sixth Amendment, which the Supreme Court has for over half a century interpreted to afford indigent criminal defendants a right to a lawyer at government expense, now also provides wealthy defendants something: protection from the government’s freezing their untainted assets (as opposed to those traceable to, or proceeds of, crime) to prevent retaining counsel of their choice. As principled—and protective of the Sixth Amendment—as this distinction may be, it reinforces something much more pernicious: there is now effectively a right of the rich to be free from impoverishment by the government, to protect their Sixth Amendment right to retain counsel of their choosing, while the identical Amendment does not provide an indigent defendant access to an actual lawyer of anyone’s choice. Luis v. United States, was quite simple: federal law permits pre-trial freezing of certain criminal defendants’ assets that are proceeds of the crime, traceable to the crime, or of equal value to either of the first categories. Ms. Luis allegedly obtained $45 million through health care-related fraud, but when indicted had only $2 million, which the government agreed was neither proceeds of nor traceable to the fraud. Freezing these funds, to satisfy what the government contended would be restitution upon conviction, would preclude her hiring counsel of her choice. If the Sixth Amendment truly conferred a right to hire counsel of one’s choice, then did it also prevent the government from vitiating this right by freezing all one’s resources with which to pay counsel? Yes, the Court found, although not for any reason that commanded a majority.

5th Amendment, criminal law, Criminal Procedure, Due Process, Editor Blog, Fifth Amendment, New England Law Review, Police Interrogation, Policy, Privacy, property, Student Writing, Use of Force

Article Preview: One Step Forward Two Steps Back: The SJC’s Incorrect Decision in Commonwealth v. Gelfgatt Deprives Technology Users of Their Constitutional Rights

Contributing Editor: Cody Zane
The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects individual criminal defendants against self-incrimination. However, as the world continues to develop at such a rapid pace and technology becomes synonymous with everyday life, Fifth Amendment protections become clouded. In 2014, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”), in Commonwealth v. Galfgatt, significantly reduced Fifth Amendments protections by failing to extend these rights to the defendant, who was compelled to produce decryption keys encrypting mortgage schemes. Specifically, the SJC lowered the evidentiary burden of reasonable particularity in its forgone conclusion analysis. Additionally, the SJC failed to apply Article 12 of the Massachusetts constitution in its analysis.

Article Preview, criminal law, Criminal Procedure, Due Process, Editor Blog, Juvenile Law, New England Law Review, Policy, prosecutors, School Reform, Student Writing, transitional justice

Article Preview: The (Unfinished) Growth of the Juvenile Justice System

Contributing Editor: Amy Robinson
The juvenile justice system has made dramatic changes over the past thirty years. In three landmark cases, Roper v. Simmons, Graham v. Florida, and Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court recognized that juvenile offenders are different from adult offenders. These cases marked a shift in the way the judiciary understands the cognitive differences between juveniles and adults. However, despite advancements in the system, courts have failed to properly focus on the goal of rehabilitation.

4th Amendment, criminal law, Criminal Procedure, Faculty Blog, Fourth Amendment, Friedman

Faculty Blog: Recent Supreme Court Term: Los Angeles v. Patel

Students in constitutional law come to learn what seasoned constitutional lawyers know: many cases implicating the Constitution do not turn on the document’s text. Which is not to say the text isn’t important, just that, in certain areas of constitutional law, the doctrinal tests the court has devised to implement textual commands often take precedence over the words themselves. Consider the Fourth Amendment, as demonstrated by the recent decision in Los Angeles v. Patel, involving the scope of protection afforded business records. The case concerned a challenge to a Los Angeles ordinance that compelled hotel operators to keep records containing specified information provided by guests, and to make these records available to police officers “for inspection” on demand. The law made the failure to make the records available for inspection punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

4th Amendment, criminal law, Editor Blog, Fourteenth Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Mass. Crim. Dig.

Mass. Crim. Dig.: Commonwealth v. Thomas

Contributing Editor: Eric Gillespie

Commonwealth v. Thomas, 469 Mass. 531 (2014)

I. Facts

In the early morning of July 6, 2006, a three-story Brockton house erupted in flames. The first-floor occupants were unharmed; however, second-floor residents and guests threw the children out the window to a passerby and then jumped themselves. Those on the third floor could not escape on their own. While firefighters saved three people, including the one-month-old baby, the baby’s mother was trapped in the bathroom and later died of smoke inhalation at the hospital. Michelle Johnson rented the first-floor apartment. The defendant, Chiteara M. Thomas, and her boyfriend, Cornelius Brown, stayed in the first-floor apartment with Johnson. Prior to the fire, Johnson demanded that Thomas move out. The defendant, angry at being tossed out, repeatedly threatened “to kill Johnson and burn the house down.”

Article Preview, criminal law, Criminal Procedure, Editor Blog, Sixth Amendment

Article Preview: A Reliable and Clear-Cut Determination

Contributing Editor: Rebecca Mushlin
The Sixth Amendment provides a criminal defendant the right to confront adverse witnesses, but this right is not absolute. In Giles v. California, the U.S. Supreme Court held a defendant will lose his or her Sixth Amendment right, under the forfeiture by wrongdoing doctrine, if the prosecution proves the defendant intended and caused a witness not to testify. Yet, the Court has not established a procedure that the trial court should use when making a forfeiture determination. The Court’s 2004 holding in Crawford v. Washington significantly diminished numerous exceptions to the Confrontation Clause, overturned most of the alternative tests, and made it more difficult for the prosecution to admit an out-of-court statement by an unavailable witness who the defense did not have an opportunity to cross-examine. Pre-Crawford, the forfeiture by wrongdoing doctrine was less prevalent because other tests allowed the prosecution to circumvent the Confrontation Clause.

4th Amendment, criminal law, Editor Blog, Fourth Amendment, Mass. Crim. Dig.

Mass. Crim. Dig.: Commonwealth v. Vacher

Contributing Editor: Catherine S. Flaherty

Commonwealth v. Vacher, 469 Mass. 425 (2014)

I. Facts

On December 16, 2008, sixteen year-old Jordan Mendes’s body was found burning in a pit in Hyannis. Mendes was stabbed in the neck and face twenty-one times, and was shot in the chest. The previous day, he went to his half-brother Charlie’s home on Arrowhead Drive after school. The defendant, Robert Vacher, was dropped off at Charlie’s home with Charlie and John R. around the same time as Jordan. That evening, Charlie arranged to test drive a black Nissan Maxima that a classmate was selling for $11,000. Charlie, John R., and the defendant test drove the vehicle and had it in their possession for approximately four hours, returning it at 8:00 p.m. At that time, Jordan’s friend Diana had expected to see him at the Arrowhead Drive house; he did not arrive, and she telephoned him throughout the night but was ultimately unable to reach him. The next morning, Diana drove Charlie and the defendant to a car dealership in Hyannis, where they purchased a silver BMW for $10,995 in cash. Charlie, John R., and the defendant were later seen at a gas station with the BMW and a red gasoline can. Jordan’s grandmother became concerned about his whereabouts because she had not seen him since the previous day. She and Jordan’s sister went to look for him, ultimately arriving at a place in the woods where Jordan and his sister often played as children. Jordan’s grandmother and sister noticed a fire burning in a pit, and found Jordan’s body at the bottom. A certified accelerant detection dog twice alerted to the presence of gasoline.