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Criminal Appeals Archives

'Serial' podcast defendant gets new trial for ineffective counsel

Adnan Syed, the defendant profiled in Season 1 the popular podcast "Serial," has been granted a new trial. A Maryland court of appeals has ruled that Syed received constitutionally ineffective assistance from his trial counsel 18 years ago, and that ineffective assistance probably affected the outcome of his trial.

Is it too cruel to execute people who are old or sick?

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal on behalf of a 67-year-old Alabama death row inmate. After suffering at least two serious strokes, Vernon Madison has dementia. His speech is slurred and he says things that don't make sense. He is also blind now, and incontinent. He doesn't remember how to use the toilet in his cell. He can only say the alphabet to the letter G. He can't remember committing the crime for which he was sentenced to death.

Federal judge: ATF's fake drug stash-house stings need to end

"These sting operations have used tremendous public resources to investigate and prosecute a large number of principally minority individuals for fictitious crimes," wrote the 7th Circuit's chief U.S. district court judge in a 73-page ruling.

When emails are stored abroad, can a US warrant reach them?

The U.S. Supreme Court has just heard arguments in a case involving emails Microsoft stores on servers in Ireland. In a 2013 drug trafficking case, Drug Enforcement Administration investigators sought the emails using a warrant authorized by the 1986 Stored Communications Act.

Supreme Court: Guilty plea doesn't bar a constitutional appeal

Rodney C. is an interesting guy. He's a veteran who has a North Carolina concealed-carry permit who wanted to carve out an unusual position for himself in modern law enforcement. He apparently sees himself as a defender of the Constitution -- a "private attorney general" who crisscrosses the nation to enforce constitutional law against judges whom he feels are ignoring it.

Can your lawyer say you're guilty if you insist you're innocent?

Louisiana death penalty defendant Robert McCoy insists on his innocence in the crime of murdering his mother-in-law, her husband and her 17-year-old grandson. However, there is substantial evidence against him, including claims that the victim's cellphone and the gun used to commit the crime were found in a car McCoy was riding in. There was an incriminating 911 recording, too, and other evidence.

Supreme Court rules appeal warranted in case of racist juror

When appellate attorneys for a Georgia man, Keith Tharpe, found evidence that one or more of his jurors had been racist, they hoped to show that racism affected the outcome of the trial. They tried to bring a habeas corpus petition to get the man's conviction or sentence overturned because the process that resulted in the man's conviction was unfair.

Have ATF drug stash-house stings been racially biased?

In a highly unusual move, a nine-judge panel of district judges from around the 7th Circuit is hearing arguments on whether certain drug sting operations run since the 90s by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were racially discriminatory.

Supreme Court to determine eligibility for reduced sentences

In the federal justice system, most criminal sentences are determined by formulas in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The guidelines are determined by an agency called the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

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