Famous Criminal Appeals During the 2005-2006 Term of the United States Supreme Court

Author:Derrick Augustus Carter
Position:Associate Professor at Valparaiso University Law School

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Part of the terror of a great crime is due to the unsavory, yet captivating, abnormalities which challenge our individual proclivities. Juxtaposing barbaric behavior through the prisms of dignified trial rules is the task of trial judges, legislative bodies and appellate courts. The 2005– 2006 Term presented issues of daily conventions: drug dealing, pornography, domestic assaults, felony-murders, police shootings, teenage brawls, bar fights, fraud, duress and insanity. These crimes generally occurred as acts of intimacy between husbands and wives, as arguments between friends, and as traps between those locked in the confines of an emotional relationship. Passions, addictions, lust, fear, and revenge throng these pages.

Across the gulf which separates the ordinary citizen from the criminal, one walks a narrow abyss. A bad day, a road rage incident, a death, or a gross mistake may alter one’s life forever and unwittingly lead to compelling legal questions. A famous criminal appeal presents empathetic, ordinary facts or presents facts where the mighty have fallen. A famous criminal appeal embarks on new law and procedure or resolves difficult contentious arguments which have a great bearing on the judicial processes. A famous criminal appeal applies the competing statutes, ascertains guilt or reversal, and directs our future conduct. There is an old saying that bad people take no interest in the lives of good people, but good people perversely hunger for the exploits of the bad. The most notorious criminal, if caught, must yield to the untiring principles of

Copyright © 2008, Derrick Augustus Carter.

∗ Professor Carter, Associate Professor at Valparaiso University Law School, presented the United States Supreme Court summaries of Criminal Cases to the Indiana Judicial Conference in September 2006, in South Bend, Indiana, to the state trial and appellate judges of Indiana. Professor Carter thanks Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Nancy Vaidik for her invitation to present the United States Supreme Court summaries at the Judicial Conference, and Vicki Davis, of the Indiana Judicial Center, for her assistance. Professor Carter wishes to thank Professors Paul Brietzke and Robert Blomquist for their editorial assistance.

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jurisprudence.1Just below God, appellate courts are the depots between heaven and hell.

There are many sides to a criminal or civil appeal—depending on the number of parties presenting the case. The prosecutor, or plaintiff, presents the sordid and revolting facts and the applicable law. The defense presents the understandable and defensible, the duality of human character. Multiple litigants add their dimensions. The judiciary applies the rules, statutes, and Constitution to resolve our explosive and planned conduct. Chief Justice John Marshall declared in Marbury v. Madison,2that “it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.”3

During the 2005–2006 Term,4the country endured the continuing saga of deaths and mutilations of the war in Iraq.5Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana, Mississippi, and the Gulf area in late August 2005 causing numerous deaths and destruction.6Hurricane Rita, equally devastating, soon followed and hit Louisiana and Texas in late September 2005.7

Severe flooding, fires, social upheaval, and political quagmires displaced thousands of people from their homes.

In national political news, House Majority Leader, Tom Delay was indicted in several major political scandals and fund probes.8Vice-President Dick Cheney shot a fellow hunter in the face during a quail

1See, e.g., Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45 (1932) (reversing the death sentences of the “Scottsboro Boys” for violation of their Sixth Amendment right to counsel); Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963) (establishing appointed counsel for indigent defendants) ; Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966) (requiring the infamous Miranda warnings before interrogation); Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986) (discrimination during the jury selection); Brown v. Bd. of Educ., 347 U.S. 483 (1954) (demanding racial integration of public schools).

25 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803).

3Id. at 177.

4The United States Supreme Court’s Term began in October 2005 and ran through June 2006.

5Richard Oppel Jr., Up to 130 Killed in Iraq, Drawing a Shiite Warning, 2 Big Suicide Bombings, Faction Warns of Revenge—7 Americans Also Reported Killed, N.Y. TIMES, Jan. 6, 2006, at A1.

6Howard Witt, New Orleans Ravaged, 80 Percent of City Submerged After Levees Burst, CHI. TRIB., Aug. 31, 2005, at A1.

7Bill Glauber & Ofelia Casillas, Rita Assaults Coast, New Orleans Levees Fail, CHI.

TRIB., Sept. 24, 2005, at A1.
8Jim Drinkard, Andrea Stone & Kathy Kiely, Delay Indicted in Fund Probe, USA

TODAY, Sept. 29, 2005, at A1.

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hunting expedition.9Former Illinois Governor Jim Ryan, who issued a moratorium on the state’s death penalty, was found guilty in April 2006, of unrelated federal corruption charges.10

In sports, the Chicago White Sox beat the Houston Astros in a 4–0 sweep during the October 2005, World Series.11In the Super Bowl, the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks in February 2006, with the Rolling Stones performing the half-time show.12In July 2006, Italy beat France to win the World Cup.13In Cultural events, “Crash” won the best movie in the March 2006 Oscar Awards.14

Political, cultural, sports, and world events place an important background in distinguishing the collection of yearly Supreme Court decisions. It takes years for the pressing cases to work their way to the United States Supreme Court.15“There is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one.”16In many societies, it takes revolutions to accomplish the impact of American courts. “Many coups d’état in small countries have achieved less social change than [the] quiet coup d’état in [an American] court.”17“The [Supreme] Court must constantly reexamine the way in which law enforcement agencies, legislatures, and the Court itself strike the balance between the rights of defendants and the interests of society at large.18

9Dana Bash, Cheney Accidentally Shoots Fellow Hunter, CNN.COM, Feb. 13, 2006, available at http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/02/12/cheney/.

10Matt O’Connor & Rudolph Bush, Ryan Guilty, CHI. TRIB., Apr. 18, 2006, at A1.

11Dan McGrath, Believe It! White Sox Bring World Series Title Back to Chicago with Historic Sweep, CHI. TRIB., Oct. 27, 2005, at A1.

12Jon Pareles, ABC Avoids a Lyric Malfunction but Allows Mick’s Midriff, N.Y. TIMES, Feb. 6, 2006, at D5.

13Andy Gardiner, Bravo! Italy Wins in Shootout, USA TODAY, July 10, 2006, at C1.

14‘Crash’ Rides Oscar Tide back into Theaters, MSNBC.COM, Mar. 7, 2006, available at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11717021/.

15For instance, issues concerning insurance and the damages rendered by Hurricane Katrina are making their way up the ladder. See, e.g., Liam Pleven & Paulo Prada, Katrina Suits Put U.S. Judge in Eye of Storm, Trumpet-Playing Senter Places Onus on Insurers to Prove Water Damage, WALL ST. J., Feb. 10–11, 2007, at B1.


COURT JUSTICE 70 (2003) (quoting Alexis de Tocqueville).17JACOB ZIEGEL, LAW AND SOCIAL CHANGE 27 (1973).

18O’CONNOR, supra note 16, at 11.

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Criminal procedure is simply “not perfectible,” it’s ever-changing.19

“Important issues are at stake when the machinery of the state proceeds against the least favored members of our society.”20

Criminal procedure issues address “we, the people” against governmental overreaching.21While the Constitution is the cornerstone of our nation’s commitment to principles of representative government and majority rule, the Bill of Rights is the anti-majoritarian assurance with a government pledge.22The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, guarantees certain fundamental freedoms, limiting the government’s intrusion on individual citizens’ liberties.23

The Justices interpret the Constitution. Justice Breyer and Justice Douglas, for instance, interpret the Constitution as “a living document,” adjusting to the major social and political issues.24Justice Scalia and



21Anthony Amsterdam, Perspectives on the Fourth Amendment, 58 MINN. L. REV. 349,

367 (1974).
22O’CONNOR, supra note 16, at 59.

23Id.; The First Amendment—Freedom of Press, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, and the right to peaceably assemble to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances;” Second Amendment—a well regulated militia and the right to bear arms; Third Amendment—No Soldier shall in time of peace be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, and during war only as prescribed by law; Fourth Amendment—the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable...

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