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SCOTUS preview 3: criminal law

By Brian Cardile | Nov. 1, 2019


Nov. 1, 2019

SCOTUS preview 3: criminal law

Does the Constitution mandate an insanity defense? Or a unanimous jury? When may juveniles be given life-without-parole sentences?

This term the Court will address a handful of interesting criminal law and procedure questions, including whether defendants must be able to invoke an insanity defense, whether convictions rendered by split juries are constitutional, and when juveniles may receive life-without-parole sentences.

In 'Kahler v. Kansas,' the state argues it permissibly legislated the insanity defense out of its criminal code because proving a culpable mental state - by showing a defendant acted with the requisite mens rea - functionally achieves the same goal of sparing those whose mental disorders should keep them from punishment. Competing amici in that appeal, Rachel Van Cleave (Golden Gate Univ.) and Bradley Hubbard (Gibson Dunn), will offer their respective views.

In 'Ramos v. Louisiana,' the state's Solicitor General Elizabeth Murrill argued to the Supreme Court in October that the Constitution does not require that criminal defendants be convicted by unanimous juries. She joins the show as does Michael Saks (Sandra Day O'Connor COL), an amici on the other side who says robust research demonstrates unanimous juries are far superior to quorum juries and thus are necessary to provide defendants with the sort of right to a jury trial the Constitution envisioned.

And John R. Mills (Phillips Black) and Thomas Fisher (Indiana Solicitor General) offer different takes on when juveniles may be sentenced to life without parole, at issue in the appeal of Lee Boyd Malvo, who as a 17-year-old participated in the infamous DC Sniper slayings.

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Brian Cardile

Rulings Editor, Podcast Host, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reporter

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