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Supreme Court Rulings

Mother Jones: The Supreme Court Just Sent a Strong Message About Racism in the Justice System

In a 7-1 opinion issued this week, the Supreme Court granted a new trial for an African-American death row inmate convicted by an all-white jury because the prosecution had “unconstitutionally rejected jurors from Foster's trial based on their race.” Stephen Bright, Foster’s attorney, said "this discrimination became apparent only because we obtained the prosecution's notes which revealed their intent to discriminate. Usually that does not happen. The practice of discriminating in striking juries continues in courtrooms across the country. Usually courts ignore patterns of race discrimination and accept false reasons for the strikes. Even after the undeniable evidence of discrimination was presented in this case, the Georgia courts ignored it and upheld Foster's conviction and death sentence."

Read more here.

The U.S. Supreme Court Makes Retroactive the Ban on Juvenile Life-Without-Parole Sentences

In 2012, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in Miller v. Alabama which holds that life-without-parole sentences for all children under 18 convicted of homicide are unconstitutional. Before this ruling, juveniles convicted of homicide could be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, but the recognition that kids are less culpable than adults because of their immaturity and impulsiveness, and that they have a higher likeliness of rehabilitation, caused the Supreme Court to issue the ruling against this cruel and unusual punishment.

Although most States applied Miller v. Alabama retroactively, several did not. However, "[the] decision in Montgomery v. Louisiana now requires all states to apply Miller retroactively, which means that in Louisiana, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, and Colorado, hundreds of people who were sentenced to die in prison for crimes when they were children are now entitled to new sentencing hearings."

See full article here.

Supreme Court Ruling- Hall Vs Florida

SCOTUS issued their opinion in Hall v. Florida in favor of the petitioner, Freddie Lee Hall. The Court ruled that Florida's use of a bright-line IQ score of 70 in a legal determination of Intellectual Disability (ID) was unconstitutional. Recognizing that error was inherent in psychological testing, the Court ruled that courts must consider Standard Error of Measurement (SEM) and must be receptive to evidence of adaptive functioning in their ID analysis.

Though ruling does not expand California law, the ruling is truly beneficial to our California Atkins clients. The Court's ruling will certainly bolster the weight of our experts' position that ID cannot be defined simply by an IQ score.

The Cal Supreme Court has issued OSCs in more than 70 capital habeas corpus cases on Atkins grounds. Though these are only a small fraction of CACJ clients, these petitioners are among those who can benefit to most from CACJ's political agenda.

Read the Supreme Court Opinion here

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