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June 7, 2007

A legal eulogy for the Claiborne case

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has this new article, entitled "Death leads to dismissal of key Supreme Court case," that discusses the legal aftermation of the death of Mario Claiborne.  Here are excerpts:

Investigators are still sorting out why Mario Claiborne was following a stolen pickup last week and just how the pursuit led to gunfire and Claiborne's death.  But the killing has created other legal twists, as it forced the dismissal of Claiborne's closely watched case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which was expected to rule within the next few weeks. J ustices were to clarify how much discretion federal judges have when applying sentencing guidelines....

Claiborne's case already had traveled an improbable road by reaching the Supreme Court, where oral arguments were held in February.  Thousands of people seek review by the high court and few succeed. And of those who get the court's attention, even fewer are killed before their case is heard.  "Once people make it to the Supreme Court, we don't tend to lose them," said Tom Goldstein, who heads the Supreme Court practice of Washington law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

The case had been watched across the country and potentially could have affected thousands of criminal defendants and a growing backlog of cases awaiting resolution of the issue.  About 9,800 of the more than 70,000 defendants sentenced in federal court in fiscal year 2006 got similar departures from guideline sentences, according to Justice Department statistics.  "You've got a lot of different parties that see this as having a far-reaching effect," [Assistant U.S. Attorney Cris] Stevens said.

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June 7, 2007 at 07:23 AM | Permalink


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The experts over at SCOTUSBlog suggest that the post-Claiborne suggestions are probably on the agenda of today's conference among the Justices. That would include the parties' proposal for an expedited grant Beal, a similar suggestion filed by counsel for petitioner in Thurston v US (an interesting below-Guidelines case out of the First Circuit), and probably other self-nominated alternatives to Beal that we don't even know the names of.

Posted by: Peter G | Jun 7, 2007 10:45:31 AM

On what basis does the St. Louis Post-Dispatch conclude Claiborne was "following" the stolen truck? And if he was "following" the truck, was it not just as likely he intended to stop the thief? The Post-Dispatch declines to articulate that likelihood for its readers, nor mention that the other two passengers in Claiborne's care was a young woman and her child. The reporter quotes Claiborne's prosecutor who taks the opportunity to endorse the Guidelines, but never mentions the Supreme Court's order to vacate the Eighth Circuit's opinion -- an opinion from which the Solicitor General himself carefully distanced the government insofar as it relied on appellate court speculation that Claiborne engaged in uncharged, unalleged, and -- as far as anyone has proof -- non-existent crimes. Obviously the post-dispatch sees nothing wrong with assuming this young victim must'a dun somethin'. The Pulitzer paper indeed.

Posted by: dh | Jun 7, 2007 11:24:36 AM

Careless error in my comment this morning. The conference is not "today" (Thursday) but rather tomorrow, Friday, June 8. Maybe we'll get some news Friday afternoon about whether the Court will take up the Claiborne issue this Term, in another case, by granting and expediting.

Posted by: Peter G | Jun 7, 2007 9:39:46 PM

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