The U.S. Supreme Court has just ruled in favor of an appeal for a man who styles himself a "constitutional bounty hunter." He pled guilty to a gun possession crime but then sought to appeal the constitutionality of the statute.
If you plead guilty in exchange for a plea bargain, what happens if the customary sentence changes? When guideline sentences are reduced, defendants are sometimes allowed to ask for the new, lower sentence. Is there a reason why people sentenced after plea bargains should be denied that right?
The U.S. Supreme Court has just heard an appeal on whether police can collect cellphone location data without a warrant and still have it be admissible against criminal defendants. The case pits Americans' privacy rights against the government's interest in easy access to personal data that can solve crimes.
Sometimes, a single defendant is subjected to two separate trials. This is often done in an effort to protect the defendant's right to a fair trial when something in the first trial would create undue prejudice among the jury in the second trial, or vice versa. But what if part of the second trial depends on facts being decided in the first trial?
A conviction can be appealed on a number of grounds. One way of looking at it is that convictions (and civil cases) can be appealed based on an error of the law or an error in the facts. In some cases, factual errors are hard to gauge, as a reasonable jury might have decided the facts either way. In others, however, a factual error is a straightforward mistake, such as a mistake in math or a wrong date. This is called "plain error."
Halfway into a 20-year sentence for murder, Jennifer Del Prete was released on bond in 2014 after a judge found she had demonstrated her "actual innocence" of the crime she was convicted of. She had been convicted of violently shaking a child in her care at a day care center. That alleged shaking caused so-called "shaken baby syndrome," neurological evidence of abuse. Unfortunately, it appears that the science behind "shaken baby syndrome" is, as the judge put it, "highly suspect."
Former New York assembly speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted in November 2015 of public corruption charges including extortion, money laundering and honest services fraud. This week, a three-judge federal appeals panel overturned his convictions on those three counts. A 2016 Supreme Court decision has narrowed the definition of public corruption since his conviction, but the instructions the jury was given in the Silver case reflected the old definition.
A little more than two years ago, a young man with the pseudonym "Dread Pirate Roberts" was convicted of running the dark web drug marketplace known as the Silk Road. It was considered a major coup for the government, although it is unclear whether shutting down the Silk Road was effective at curtailing the sale of illicit substances online. "Roberts" was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole, however, which some observers saw as unusually harsh considering the largely nonviolent nature of the crimes.
Becoming a federal judge is the dream of a lifetime for many, but it does have its downsides. Those downsides could include something like the lack of ability to advocate for causes you care about, or they might involve dissatisfaction with aspects of the position itself.
Authorities characterized the outcome of a recent sting operation spanning 29 states as bringing down the Uber of sex-trafficking.