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Plaintiff and her daughter filed suit against the county, challenging an in-school Bible lesson program for public elementary and middle school students as violating the Establishment Clause. The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that plaintiffs have standing because they alleged two actual, ongoing injuries: (1) near-daily avoidance of contact with an alleged state-sponsored religious exercise, and (2) enduring feelings of marginalization and exclusion resulting therefrom. The court also held that plaintiffs' claims were redressable because an injunction would meaningfully redress their injuries. The court also held that the district court erred in treating the temporary suspension of the program as raising ripeness concerns, and plaintiffs' claims were not moot. View "Deal v. Mercer County Board of Education" on Justia Law

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K.P. was found not guilty by reason of insanity by a jury; he shot and killed his father. In this appeal, the issue presented for the Court of Appeal's review centered on whether the recent amendment to subdivision (h) of Penal Code section 12022.53, giving a trial court discretion to strike or dismiss a firearm enhancement, applied retroactively to a person - whose case is not yet final - committed to a state hospital after being found not guilty by reason of insanity. K.P. contended that denying an insanity acquittee the ability to have a firearm enhancement under section 12022.53 (d) dismissed based on a trial court's exercise of discretion under section 12022.53 (h) violated the equal protection clause of the state and federal constitutions. The Court concluded that amended section 12022.53 did not apply to an insanity acquittee, and there was no equal protection violation. View "California v. K.P." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court finding Defendant guilty of one count of second-degree murder and one count of discharging a firearm while committing a crime of violence, holding that the trial justice did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress or in failing to exclude certain evidence. Specifically, the Court held (1) law enforcement’s failure to comply with Miranda does not require the suppression of the physical evidence acquired as a result of a suspect’s unwarned, but voluntary, statements; (2) Defendant’s statements leading detectives to a firearm and ammunition were voluntary, and therefore, the gun and ammunition were admissible; and (3) the trial justice did not err in concluding that the police’s seizure through the impounding of Defendant’s vehicle and the subsequent search of the vehicle were constitutional, and therefore, the evidence obtained therein admissible. View "State v. Beauregard" on Justia Law

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Ofem, age 18, was arrested for a misdemeanor and taken to Chicago lockup. During rounds, officers asked him screening questions. Ofem displayed no signs of pain, injury, or infection; he did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol or showing signs of withdrawal; he did not seem to be despondent or irrational, and was not carrying medication. Ofem refused food in lockup. At 1:10 p.m., on Ofem’s second day in lockup, a guard glanced at the video monitor and saw Ofem hanging from a horizontal bar in his cell. Guards immediately went to the cell, approximately 15 feet away, where Ofem had used his jeans to hang himself. Ofem was transported to a hospital where he died the following day. His mother sued the city under 42 U.S.C. 1983, for failing to prevent her son’s death. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the city, noting the lack of evidence that the city was deliberately indifferent to the risk of suicide for detainees held in lockups or that the city’s policies and practices were the cause of Ofem’s death. Illinois Lockup Standards were in effect at the time of Ofem’s death. Ofem’s estate focused on the narrow circumstances of Ofem’s death rather than on official policies or unofficial but wide-spread practices or customs. View "Lapre v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's request for an evidentiary hearing and denial of his application for a certificate of appealability (COA). Petitioner was a member of the "Texas Seven," a group that escaped from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and violently took hostages and stole guns and ammunition. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying an evidentiary hearing where an evidentiary hearing would not enable petitioner to establish a right to federal habeas relief. The court also denied a COA on petitioner's claim that the state trial court violated his constitutional rights by preventing him from offering the Ranking Document as mitigating evidence, Brady violation claim, ineffective assistance of counsel claim, Enmund/Tison culpability claim, and ineffective assistance of appellate counsel claim. View "Halprin v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) against St. James after she was terminated from her teaching position when she told the school that she had breast cancer and would need to miss work to undergo chemotherapy. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the school, holding that, based on the totality of the circumstances test under Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. E.E.O.C., 565 U.S. 171 (2012), the First Amendment's ministerial exception did not foreclose plaintiff's claim. In this case, plaintiff did not have any credentials, training, or ministerial background; there was no religious component to her liberal studies degree or teaching credential; St. James had no religious requirements for her position; and St. James did not hold plaintiff out as a minister. View "Biel v. St. James School" on Justia Law

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Nineteen-year-old J.L. was reported missing after she failed to return home on the evening of October 10, 2008. Following a search of the family computer, officers from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPCS) determined that J.L. received a message through an online social–network platform, from a person with the username “Rex290.” The message suggested that the two “get together” the following day. The police identified “Rex290” as defendant Robert Hull Marko, a soldier stationed at Fort Carson. Marko would ultimately be convicted by jury of J.L.'s first degree murder and sexual assault. Marko appealed, arguing: (1) the trial court impermissibly denied his request to strike a juror for cause because of that juror’s views on the defense of not guilty by reason of insanity; and (2) he was in custody and under interrogation before he was informed of his Miranda rights such that certain statements he made should have been excluded at trial. Because the Colorado Supreme Court disagreed with both of Marko’s contentions, it affirmed the decision of the court of appeals, though on different grounds. View "Marko v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court judge allowing Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence that was found in plain view during a protective sweep on the basis that the officers’ entry into Defendant’s home was not justified based on exigent circumstances, holding that the judge properly found that the police created the exigency that prompted their warrantless entry into Defendant’s dwelling. Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights provides greater protection than the Fourteenth Amendment where the police have relied on a reasonably foreseeable exigency to justify the warrantless entry into a dwelling; (2) under the circumstances of this case, the arrest of Defendant in his dwelling without a warrant was unreasonable; and (3) the Commonwealth waived the argument regarding whether, if the permissible observations from the affidavit were redacted, the search warrant was based on probable cause. View "Commonwealth v. Alexis" on Justia Law

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Defendant Rein Kolts appealed his conviction by jury of the aggravated sexual assault of a child. On appeal, he argued: (1) his confession that he repeatedly had sex with his niece should have been suppressed because law enforcement obtained it by interrogating him in a custodial setting without advising him of his Miranda rights; (2) the confession was involuntary because he was coerced by police; (3) the trial court abused its discretion when it excluded testimony by his two expert witnesses; and (4) the trial court erred when it instructed the jury that it could decide that he confessed voluntarily even if it determined that the police’s use of psychological tactics contributed to his confession. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Vermont v. Kolts" on Justia Law

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Horshaw was beaten by other inmates at Menard Correctional Center. Horshaw still suffers from pain and brain trauma. Before the attack Horshaw received an anonymous letter stating that he would be “eradicated” for disrespecting the gang’s leader. In his 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit, Horshaw claimed that he gave Casper, a guard, a letter describing the threat, that Casper promised to investigate yet did nothing, and that he sent a note to then-warden Atchison, asking for protection. Both Casper and Atchison deny receiving the documents or having any reason to think that Horshaw was in danger. The district court found Casper not liable because, whether or not he received the letter, it did not establish a specific or substantial threat and found Atchison not liable because he did not receive Horshaw’s note. The Seventh Circuit vacated. Casper does not contend that he deemed the threat false or that Horshaw had lost his credibility; Atchison testified that, if he had received the letter or Horshaw’s note, he would have put Horshaw in protective custody immediately. Horshaw testified that he wrote a note to Atchison, put Atchison’s name on the envelope, and saw a guard collect the note. Placing the note in the prison mail system supports an inference of receipt. The factual disputes may be hard to resolve given the lapse of time and Horshaw’s brain injury, but if his facts are accurate, neither Casper nor Atchison is entitled to immunity. View "Horshaw v. Casper" on Justia Law