Violent Crime

In a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court held in McGirt v. Oklahoma that for purposes of the Major Crimes Act (MCA) three million acres, including most of the City of Tulsa, is a Creek reservation.

Per the federal MCA only the federal government may prosecute Native Americans who commit specific crimes within “Indian country.” Oklahoma state court convicted Jimcy McGirt, a member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, for three serious sexual...

In a fractured 6-3 opinion in Ramos v. Louisiana the Supreme Court held that for convictions of serious crimes state court jury verdicts must be unanimous.

In 48 states and federal court, a single juror’s vote to acquit prevents a conviction. Louisiana and Oregon allow convictions for serious crimes based on 10-to-2 verdicts.

The Sixth Amendment states that “[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy...

James Kahler shot his wife, her grandmother, and his two daughters after his wife filed for divorce and moved out with their children. He argued that Kansas “unconstitutionally abolished the insanity defense” by allowing the conviction of a mentally ill person “who cannot tell the difference between right and wrong.” The Supreme Court disagreed.

In Kahler v. Kansas the Supreme Court held 6-3 that the Constitution’s Due Process Clause does not...

In Jones v. Mississippi the Supreme Court will decide whether the Eighth Amendment requires the sentencing authority to make a finding that a juvenile is “permanently incorrigible” before imposing a sentence of life without parole.

In Miller v. Alabama (2012) the Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment bars life-without-parole sentences “for all but the rarest of...

The Supreme Court was supposed to decide whether D.C. Sniper Lee Boyd Malvo could have his Virginia sentence of life in prison without parole reconsidered. The Supreme Court dismissed this case because Virginia just passed a law making all juvenile offenders eligible for parole after 20 years. Even if paroled in Virginia, Malvo faces six additional life sentences in Maryland.

In ...

McKinney v. Arizona is an excellent illustration of the complexity and disagreement on the Supreme Court over the death penalty. The Supreme Court held 5-4 that a court rather than a jury may reweigh improperly excluded mitigating evidence in a death penalty case on collateral review.

In 1992 James McKinney was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder. To receive the death penalty at least one aggravating circumstance must be found. A...

In McKinney v. Arizona James Erin McKinney wants the Arizona Supreme Court out of his death penalty case. More specifically, the Supreme Court will decide whether a jury rather than a judge must weigh the factors mitigating against imposing a death sentence when the law at the time he was convicted allowed a judge to weigh mitigating factors. The Court also has agreed to decide whether a trial court rather than an appellate court must correct the failure to weigh relevant mitigating factors.

A jury found McKinney guilty of first-degree murder related to two separate burglaries and murders committed in 1991. McKinney had PTSD from his “horrific” childhood but the Arizona Supreme Court disallowed the sentancer to consider non-statutory mitigating evidence (including family background and mental condition) unconnected to the crime. In 1996 the trial court found the evidence of PTSD to be unconnected to the crime and sentenced McKinney to death.

In Apodaca v. Oregon (1972) and Johnson v. Louisiana (1972), five Justices agreed that the Sixth Amendment requires unanimous jury verdicts in federal criminal cases. Five Justices also agreed that jury verdicts in state criminal cases don’t have to be unanimous. In Ramos v. Louisiana the Supreme Court will consider overruling the latter holding in Apodaca and Johnson. Only Oregon and Louisiana allow non-unanimous jury verdicts in criminal cases.

Evangelisto Ramos was convicted 10-2 of second-degree murder based solely on circumstantial evidence and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Ramos argues that the Fourteenth Amendment fully the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a unanimous verdict against the states.

CSG Midwest
Following Nebraska’s first execution of a death-row inmate in 21 years, some legislators are calling for statutory revisions that would change who witnesses the death and what they are able to see. “If the state is going to do something as serious as taking a person’s life, we need to be transparent,” Nebraska Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks says.
Carey Dean Moore was put to death on Aug. 14 for the murder of two cabdrivers nearly 40 years ago. He died by lethal injection, the first time that Nebraska used this method of execution. (In 2008, the state Supreme Court ruled electrocution to be unconstitutional.) The four-drug combination used by Nebraska had never been used by any other state: a sedative, an opioid pain killer (fentanyl) and a paralyzing drug, followed by potassium chloride, a drug that causes heart failure.

Six states currently do not have laws pertaining to hazing, and of the 44 states that do, the penalties are typically not harsh. After the death of freshman student, Max Gruver, at a fraternity hazing event at Louisiana State University, Louisiana legislators worked to create harsher punishments.

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