At stake is our basic understanding of the difference between right and wrong. If someone commits a wrongful act but, due to a mental illness or defect, wasn't able to recognize that what they were doing was wrong, we don't consider them to have committed a crime.
Once you've been found guilty of a crime, can the government just assert that you're guilty of new crimes without having to prove it to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt?
The Montgomery County, Mississippi, prosecutor seems to have made it his career mission to convict Curtis Flowers for four 1986 murders in a small-town furniture store. Over the past two decades, he has tried Flowers for the murders six times.
In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Brady v. Maryland that police and prosecutors are legally bound to turn over so-called "exculpatory" evidence to the defense before trial. Exculpatory evidence is most anything favorable to the defense. It can be evidence that the defendant is innocent, that someone else could be guilty, or that there were mitigating circumstances. Or, it can cast doubt on the reliability of prosecution witnesses.
The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, "excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." An Indiana man is testing the excessive fines rule by appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. The problem? The high court has never held that the "excessive fines" clause applies to the states.
If the police want to track you through your cellphone's location history, should they have to get a warrant?
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.
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.
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.
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.