Tuesday, October 28, 2008

SC Supreme Court says that dreadlocks is insufficient reason to strike juror

In McCrea v. Gheraibeh, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed the denial of a Batson Motion and remanded the case for a new trial. This case arose out of an automobile accident. When three of six potential black jurors were struck, a Batson Motion was made. During the hearing, the lawyer striking the jurors stated that he struck one man with dreadlocks because he was uneasy about him. In accepting counsel’s explanation, the trial court stated that he knew both of the attorneys, was aware of their reputations in the community, and that he did not believe that the attorney would engage in racially high motivated conducted. Therefore, the trial judge accepted the “uneasiness” argument regarding the dreadlocks.

In reversing on grounds of Batson, the Supreme Court held that uneasiness over dreadlocks was not a race-neutral reason for striking someone. Regardless of their gradual infiltration into mainstream American society, the court stated that dreadlocks retained their roots as a religious and social symbol of black culture. Hence, no race-neutral reason for striking the juror was offered.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Court of Appeals issues opinion on 43k settlements

The following settlement was put on record just before trial:

Your Honor, the settlement that’s been reached is that this case will be dismissed with prejudice by an order of dismissal with prejudice to be consented to by the parties and signed by your honor.

Furthermore, the defendants, each and every one of them, will consent to and sign and deliver to me a confession of judgment which will provide for the payment of $165,000 within 18 months. And there will be additional payment terms in there, $25,000 of the 165 within 30 days.

Further, in kind consideration, in addition to the 165,000 the return of 15 rugs, three of which shall be room size Herizes, the confession of judgment will have an attorney’s fee provision that in the event of default, that the cost of enforcing the judgment or collecting the judgment will be recoverable.

And, finally, the confession of judgment will have a no contest stipulation. If it’s required to be domesticated in some state other than South Carolina, the defendants agree not to contest the domestication.

Some weeks after this was put on the record, the parties disputed whether interest was applicable. The court of appeals held that even though interest was not mentioned, it was applicable. The court of appeals held that interest was applicable: "However, interest is provided for by statute. Section 34-31-20(A) provides '[i]n all cases of accounts stated and in all cases wherein any sum or sums of money shall be ascertained and, being due, shall draw interest according to law, the legal interest shall be at the rate of eight and three-fourths percent per annum.'"

The case is Vista Antiques v. Noaha.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

SC Supreme Court affirms conviction of criminal solicitation of a minor

In State v. Gaines, the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld a conviction under our recently enacted Criminal Solicitation of a Minor statute. Gaines was an Internet predator who used AOL chat rooms to engage in conversations with young girls. Unknown to Gaines, two of the friends he met on line were police officers. A police officer in Pennsylvania reported his conduct to authorities in South Carolina, and an officer in South Carolina contacted Gaines via AOL. The officer pretended to be a 13 year old girl and Gaines suggested they meet for sex.
After conviction, Gaines appealed and argued that the evidence regarding the chats with the officer in Pennsylvania should have been inadmissible. This contention was rejected because under Rule 404(b) crimes or evidence crimes, wrongs, or acts similar to those that the defendant is on trial for, can be admitted to show motive, identity, or the existence of a common plan or scheme.

Gaines also argued he was entitled to an entrapment instruction. The entrapment defense consists of two elements: (1) government inducement, and (2) lack of pre-disposition. Gaines argued that because the South Carolina police officer first contacted him with the message "Hey" constituted entrapment. The Supreme Court disagreed and said that the initial contact merely afforded Gaines the opportunity to solicit sex. He was in no way induced to commit the crime of criminal solicitation with a minor.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Supreme Court hears case about Navy sonar and whales

From the LA Times:

The Supreme Court justices appeared closely split Wednesday on whether environmental laws can be used to protect whales and other marine mammals from the Navy's use of sonar off the coast of Southern California. A Bush administration lawyer argued that when national security is at stake, the president and his top military commanders are entrusted with setting the rules.

The government is urging the high court to throw out a Los Angeles judge's order that put limits on the Navy's operations. Acting on a suit brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council in Santa Monica, U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper ordered the Navy to shut down its high-intensity sonar whenever a whale or marine mammal is spotted within 1.25 miles of the ship.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Big Changes at SCOTUS

Law.com has a nice article on the upcoming term and possible changes.

Friday, October 03, 2008

SCOTUS declines to rehear Ban on Execution for Child Rape

The state of Louisiana and the Justice Department had asked the court to reconsider the 5 to 4 decision because the justices had not been presented with what the state and federal government considered an important fact: that Congress in 2006 made child rape a capital offense under military law. This would have perhaps undermined the "national consensus" argument in the majority opinion.

The Court, however, declined to reconsider the issue.

The Washington Post has this article.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Chief Justice Roberts stays execution of Freddie Owens

Freddie Owens has gotten extra time to prepare a petition for cert to the Supreme Court. Owens was sentenced to death stemming from a 1997 robbery-murder on Laurens Road in Greenville County.

In his order, Roberts wrote that should Owens' petition for a writ of certiorari be denied by the justices, the stay would automatically terminate. That would clear the way for the state Supreme Court to set another execution date.

Greenville Councilman Trout arrested by FBI

WSPA has the scoop here.

United States Attorney W. Walter Wilkins announced Harold Anthony “Tony” Trout was arrested Wednesday morning by FBI agents on federal charges of unauthorized computer access.

The federal complaint and supporting affidavit, filed Wednesday, allege violations concerning the unauthorized access of computers.

Trout made an initial appearance in federal court before the U.S. Magistrate Judge William M. Catoe at the United States Federal Courthouse in Greenville.