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June 4, 2007

SCOTUS dismisses Claiborne, again rules 5-4 in a capital case

After a few quite sentencing weeks, SCOTUS did a lot this morning that sentencing fans will find interesting.  SCOTUSblog is, of course, the place to get all the early reports, and here are the sentencing highlights thanks to Lyle Denniston:

The Supreme Court on Monday threw out the case of Claiboirne v. U.S. (06-5618), because the individual involved, Mario Claiborne of St. Louis, Mo., had died last week.  The Court ordered an Eighth Circuit decision in the case vacated as moot.  The case involved the question of whether it is presumed to be unreasonable for a federal judge to impose a below-Guidelines range sentence, if there were no extraordinary circumstances in the case.  The Court took no immediate action on a plea to grant review in a substitute case from the Eighth Circuit raising the same issue....

The Supreme Court, dividing 5-4, ruled on Monday that federal courts must defer to trial courts in deciding whether to remove a juror from a death penalty trial because of the potential juror's views about capital punishment.  The Court said that the trial judge "is in a superior position" to make that decision.  The case was Uttecht v. Brown (06-413), with the Court reversing the Ninth Circuit Court.  Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced the decision of the majority, and Justice John Paul Stevens responded from the bench for the dissenters.

Commentary will follow on both of these developments later in the day.

June 4, 2007 at 10:47 AM | Permalink


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Obviously the big question now is what will happen to all the effort the Court had invested in Claiborne. The Court's options are: (1) Decide Rita in such a way that effectively decides the issue in both cases; (2) Quickly grant another Eighth Circuit case that presents the same issue as Claiborne; (3) leave the whole issue for another day.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Jun 4, 2007 10:50:35 AM

(4) slowly grant another case that presents the same issue as Claiborne, get a bit more briefing from the parties, and issue the decision on the first day of OT 2007.

Posted by: | Jun 4, 2007 11:37:50 AM

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