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Showing posts from July, 2011

United States v. Evanston: no re-arguing during jury delibrations

In U.S. v. Evanston, the Ninth Circuit Court vacated a district court’s judgment because it allowed attorneys on both sides to re-address arguments after the jury declared its second deadlock. Calvin Evanston was charged with assault on his live-in girlfriend, leaving her with permanent damages on her face. The jury was unsure about the witness’s credibility and how the victim’s injuries were caused. Despite the defense’s objection to this order and two jury deadlocks, the judge gave both sides the opportunity to reargue the issues that were uncertain to the jury. Shortly after, the jury deliberated and reached a guilty verdict.

The court of appeals found the order for additional arguments as an interference with the jury’s role as the sole fact-finder. First, the jury’s deliberative secrecy was violated when they revealed to the judge that they were inconclusive about two particular issues. Secondly, additional arguments from both sides along with the judge insisting to continue aft…

California State Prison Overcrowding: The U.S. Supreme Court Decision and Its Aftermath

On May 23, 2011, the Supreme Court of the United States gave California officials a strict order to cut its prison population by at least 23%, reducing its inmate population from 143,435 to 109,805. In Brown v. Plata, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy made the concluding 5-4 vote, stating that “needless suffering and death have been the well-documented result” of overcrowded prisons. California must fulfill this order by May 2013 with four deadlines within the two years, requiring a 10,000 inmate reduction for each benchmark. If the state does not meet the deadlines, the courts have the authority to order prisoners released.

Issues stemming from California’s overcrowded prisons were first brought to the court’s attention over two decades ago as a violation of the 8th Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment for crimes. What has come to light from these cases is that California’s prisons are designed to house no more than 80,000 inmates, but currently it is housing almost doubl…