Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Supreme Court Starts Term with First Amendment Cases

Sullivan v. Florida and Graham v. Florida.
Argument: Nov. 9.
Terrance Graham and Joe Sullivan were both sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for separate offences they committed as minors.Graham pleaded guilty at age 16 to armed burglary and attempted armed robbery of a restaurant. Due to a probation violation, he was sentenced to the maximum penalty.Sullivan was convicted in 1989 at age 13 of sexual battery involving a 72-year-old woman.These cases come after the 2005 Ropert v. Florida ruling in which the court ruled 5-4 that sentencing minors to the death penalty violates Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment.Graham and Sullivan argue that sentencing juveniles to life without parole also violates the Eighth Amendment because it eradicates hope.Fourteen friend-of-the-court briefs side with Graham and Sullivan; six support the state.Pottawattamie County, Iowa v. McGhee. Argument: Nov. 4.Retired police officer John Schweer was shot and killed July 21, 1977, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Two Pottawattamie County prosecutors were found to have planted evidence and withheld exculpatory evidence during the criminal trial. Suspects Terry Harrington and Curtis McGhee were convicted in 1978 and released 20 years later, after that discovery. The are seeking civil damages from the county and the prosecutors, who argue they are immune to a civil suit because they were acting on behalf of the government."In this case, the prosecutors were acting very, very, very badly," said Lisa Kung, of the Southern Center for Human Rights. "The question is how much immunity do we give a prosecutor?"The ruling could give blanket immunity to anything a prosecutor does if the court sides with the prosecutors.

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